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EPA Reviewing PFOA, PFOS Regulations

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

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Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked its Science Advisory Board to review draft documents regarding health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The request for review is a result of recent scientific data regarding the negative health effects of lower levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) than previously understood and that PFOA is likely a carcinogen.

“Under our new PFAS Strategic Roadmap, EPA is moving aggressively on clear, robust and science-based actions to protect communities suffering from legacy PFOA and PFOS contamination,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

“This action will ensure a rigorous review from experienced scientists to strengthen our understanding of this preliminary information as the agency works toward developing revised health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, and soon establishing regulations that protect communities from these contaminants.”

The four draft documents include:

  • Proposed Approaches to the Derivation of a Draft Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for PFOA in Drinking Water;
  • Proposed Approaches to the Derivation of a Draft Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for PFOS in Drinking Water;
  • Draft Framework for Estimating Noncancer Health Risks Associated with Mixtures of PFAS; and
  • Analysis of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction as a Result of Reduced PFOA and PFOS Exposure in Drinking Water.
© iStock / Skyhobo

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked its Science Advisory Board to review draft documents regarding health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

According to the EPA, following peer review, this information will be used to develop Maximum Contaminant Level Goals and a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFOA and PFOS. The agency is also seeking independent scientific review of these documents.

“EPA will not wait to take action to protect the public from PFAS exposure. The agency will be actively engaging with its partners regarding PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, including supporting their monitoring and remediation efforts,” stated the press release, also citing the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which invests $10 billion to help communities test for and clean up PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water and wastewater

The EPA plans to develop a proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for fall 2022.

New PFAS Regulations, Strategic Roadmap

The EPA announced plans in September to develop three new rulemakings in regard to identifying opportunities to better protect public health and the environment through regulation of wastewater pollution.

 In making the announcement, the EPA released Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15), which outlines new regulations to reduce contaminants—including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and nutrients—from key industries.

“To protect drinking water supplies, recreational waters, and aquatic ecosystems, it is essential that we utilize the latest scientific and technological breakthroughs in wastewater treatment,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “This plan illustrates one way that EPA is following science to better protect public health and the environment. Importantly and for the first time, EPA is committing to limit PFAS in wastewater discharges.”

According to the EPA, the decision to initiate the three new rulemakings arrives after concluding several studies previously discussed in its Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14. The agency has determined that revised effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and pretreatment standards are warranted for:

  • Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers category to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) discharges from facilities manufacturing PFAS;
  • Metal Finishing category to address PFAS discharges from chromium electroplating facilities; and 
  • Meat and Poultry Products category to address nutrient discharges.

The Preliminary Plan 15 also discussed the Steam Electric Power Generating category rulemaking the agency previously announced on July 26. EPA has initiated that rulemaking process to consider strengthening the effluent limits applicable to certain ELG waste streams from coal power plants that use steam to generate electricity.

At the end of last month, Regan announced the creation of the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to address contamination regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The PFAS Strategic Roadmap officially sets a series of timelines for the EPA to take specific actions and set bolder policies regarding PFAS. In addition, the plan also pledges to conduct more research and testing on hundreds of other PFAS, potentially listing additional compounds as hazardous substances in the future to better safeguard public health, protect the environment and hold polluters accountable.

By 2023, the roadmap aims to set a final rule for PFOS and PFOA regulation in drinking water and will designate two compounds as hazardous substances. That same year, the Agency intends to provide updated research on the available methods for disposing of or destroying PFAS through landfills, thermal treatment and deep-well injection.

“This roadmap will not solve our PFAS challenges overnight,” wrote Regan in the roadmap document. “But it will turn the tide by harnessing the collective resources and authority across federal, Tribal, state and local governments to empower meaningful action now.”

EPA’s integrated approach to PFAS is focused on three central directives:

  • Research - Invest in research, development and innovation to increase understanding of PFAS exposures and toxicities, human health and ecological effects, and effective interventions that incorporate the best available science;
  • Restrict - Pursue a comprehensive approach to proactively prevent PFAS from entering air, land and water at levels that can adversely impact human health and the environment; and
  • Remediate - Broaden and accelerate the human health and ecological systems.

“We need to gain a stronger and more complete science-based understanding of the problem, so we can put in place durable solutions that keep people healthy,” Regan said.

A full copy of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap can be viewed here.

   

Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Regulations; Water/Wastewater

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