Recently, the EPA acknowledged the urgent public health and environmental threat caused by decades of PFAS pollution. Due to this threat, the EPA formed a Council on PFAS in April of 2021. The Council on PFAS was tasked with developing a national plan to deal with the threats of widespread PFAs contamination.
In October of 2021, the Council published EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The Roadmap is guided by three goals: (1) Research, (2) Prevention, and (3) Remediation. Based on this Roadmap the federal government is investing in research to determine the full extent of the threat the Nation faces from PFAS exposure. The EPA is also establishing regulations for the use and disposal of PFAS containing products and wastes. Likewise, the federal government is funding the remediation of PFAS contamination and upgrading of water treatment systems across the country.
On November 17, 2022, the EPA provided its first annual update on the progress made under the PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The main actions highlighted by EPA one year along include:
- Proposed designation of PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances;
- Released drinking water health advisories for PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and HFPO/GenX Chemicals;
- Ordered companies to conduct PFAS testing and a 2023 deadline for nationwide sampling for PFAS in drinking water; and
- Released the first installments of a $10 billion fund to clean up PFAS and other emerging contaminants.
Enhancing Chemical Safety
EPA announced a PFAS Testing Strategy in October 2021. EPA’s goal is group PFAS into separate categories to direct research, develop regulations, and hasten technology and policy solutions. To that end, in June 2022, EPA issued its first test order under the Strategy. The Order will provide EPA with data on thousands of PFAS within these distinct categories.
Safeguarding Drinking Water
In December 2021, EPA finalized an Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which will expand PFAS testing nationwide. Monitoring will be required for 29 PFAS in drinking water. This means that thousands of local drinking water systems will conduct annual monitoring from 2023 through 2025. And, the data collected will confirm the prevalence of PFAS in US drinking water. Moreover, this will also allow EPA to determine if and where PFAS contamination is disproportionately impacting communities with environment justice concerns.
Finally, EPA is developing maximum contaminant limits for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). EPA published two papers showing that negative health effects from PFOA/ PFOS occur at much lower levels than previously thought. Due to this, EPA issued interim health advisories for PFOA and PFOS in June 2022.
Ensuring Clean Water
In April 2022, EPA released draft water quality criteria for PFOA/PFOS. These criteria are intended to provide recommendations on how state/local governments can protect aquatic life from harmful PFAS effects. Additionally, EPA also published a paper showing state/local governments how to use CWA permitting to reduce PFAS discharges. Soon EPA will publish an update on its efforts to limit discharges of PFAS via effluent guidelines.
Cleaning Up PFAS
In September 2022, EPA proposed to designate PFOA/PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA. That is to say, listing of PFOA/PFAS as hazardous substances will increase transparency and hold polluters accountable. In May 2022, EPA added five PFAS to a list of risk-based value that dictate site cleanup decisions. Furthermore, EPA announced two additional rulemaking actions under RCRA.
Strengthening the Scientific Foundation
First, researchers have published more then 30 papers on PFAS in scholarly journals. Second, EPA and researchers added invaluable data to the Drinking Water Treatability Database, the CompTox Chemicals Dashboard, and the ECOTOX Knowledgebase. Third, EPA released new PFAS sampling methodologies for various PFAS. In conjunction with all of this, EPA is also evaluating and developing technologies aimed at reducing PFAS in the environment. This includes the formation of the PFAS Thermal Treatment Database in February of 2022.
Holding Polluters Accountable
In January, EPA sent requests for information to three PFAS manufacturers: The Chemours Company; Corteva, and DuPont. EPA is requiring these manufacturers to produce data and documentation on current and past PFAS production at 24 facilities. EPA also ordered them to provide information on their management and disposal practices. Finally, in November, EPA ordered 3M to sample and treat PFAS contaminated drinking water near its facility in Cordova, Illinois.
Investment Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)
Small or Disadvantaged Communities Drinking-Water Grants: $5 Billion
Over the next 5 years, the BIL provides $5 billion to address PFAS-contaminated drinking water in disadvantaged communities. In June 2022, EPA announced the availability of the first $1 billion in grant funding.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $4 Billion
In the next 5 years, the BIL dedicates $4 to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to address PFAS, and 25% of the funds are reserved for disadvantaged communities and small public water systems.
Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $1 Billion
Finally, the BIL provides $1 billion over five years to address PFAS in wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Clean water infrastructure projects that address PFAS may also be funded via the $11.7 billion in BIL Clean Water State Revolving Fund General Supplemental Fund.