EPA Announces PFAS Strategic Roadmap
Last month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. 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:
“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.
According to the White House, the PFAS Strategic Roadmap is just one part of the nation’s plan to combat PFAS contamination. On the same day the roadmap was announced, the Biden Administration issued a multi-agency plan regarding PFAS pollution.
In a combined effort by agencies, including the EPA, the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, actions will be taken to prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems and food supply and to expand cleanup efforts to remediate the impacts of PFAS pollution.
The Administration is also continuing work to pass President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better Agenda, which both include dedicated funding to address PFAS contamination in drinking water. Specifically, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes $10 billion in grants to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS, through the State Revolving Funds and small and disadvantaged community programs.
Other agency plans to combat PFAS pollution include:
The EPA has been releasing clusters of PFAS news in the past months. In June, it announced three actions, including issuing the proposed rule that it says is designed to gather comprehensive data on more than 1,000 PFAS manufactured in the United States, withdrawing guidance that weakened EPA’s July 2020 Significant New Use Rule restricting certain long-chain PFAS and publishing a final rule that incorporates three additional PFAS into the Toxics Release Inventory.
The rule is a statutory requirement under the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require all manufacturers (including importers) of PFAS in any year since 2011 to report information related to chemical identity, categories of use, volumes manufactured and processed, byproducts, environmental and health effects, worker exposure and disposal.
The EPA says that this will help the agency understand the sources and quantities of PFAS in the U.S. and support the agency’s PFAS research, monitoring and regulatory efforts. Once finalized, this rule would reportedly be the first targeted effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act to collect information on the manufacture of PFAS.
To assist stakeholders in determining whether or not they have a reportable chemical, the EPA will provide examples, exemption notices and structural diagrams. The proposed deadline for reporting PFAS data to EPA was one year following the effective date of the final rule.
In addition to the new reporting action, the EPA withdrew a compliance guide that it says weakened the July 2020 Significant New Use Rule— this is in accordance with the Biden-Harris administration. The SNUR prohibits companies from importing certain long-chain PFAS as part of a “surface coating” on articles without prior EPA review and approval.
The EPA noted that the guide was issued in January, in the last days of the Trump administration and aimed to limit what would be considered “surface coating.” The guide also was never opened to public comments, the EPA added, saying that it determined that the guide “inappropriately narrowed the scope and weakened the prohibitions included in the SNUR.”
That guide has been removed and is no longer in effect.
Lastly, the EPA had taken the next step to implement a PFAS requirement of the NDAA. The NDAA provided a framework for additional PFAS to be added to TRI on an annual basis. For TRI Reporting Year 2021 (reporting forms due by July 1, 2022), the NDAA has added three PFAS to the TRI list because they are now subject to a SNUR under TSCA.
Per the NDAA requirements, the PFAS additions became effective as of Jan. 1. Reporting forms for these PFAS will be due to EPA by July 1, 2022, for calendar year 2021 data.
At the beginning of that same month, President Joe Biden submitted his budget request of $11.2 billion for the EPA, with emphasis on issues such as the environment, science and support of state and local programs.
The budget breakdown included a provision for PFAS, namely that $75 million will go to accelerate toxicity studies and fund research to inform the regulatory developments of designating PFAS as hazardous substances while setting enforceable limits for PFAS.
In addition to the increase in funding proposed in the budget, Regan issued a memorandum to senior leadership calling for the creation of a new EPA Council on PFAS. The council’s mission is to build the agency’s work to better understand and reduce the risks caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Regan asked Radhika Fox, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Water, and Deb Szaro, Acting Regional Administrator in Region 1, to convene and lead the EPA Council on PFAS, which will be comprised of senior EPA career officials from across the agency.
The goals of the council date back to a 2019 action plan that was never realized. Directives include:
That same month, the EPA issued two new updates in emailed press releases, both extending the public comment period for its proposed recordkeeping requirements and releasing data from the 2020 Toxics Release Inventory.
First, the comment period on the proposed reporting and recordkeeping requirements for manufacturers (including importers) of PFAS under section 8(a)(7) of the Toxic Substances Control Act, was extended from an Aug. 27 closing date to Sept. 27.
Second, the EPA released data from the TRI about chemical releases, chemical waste management and pollution prevention activities that took place during 2020 at nearly 21,000 federal and industrial facilities across the country. The preliminary data reportedly includes the first-ever reporting on PFAS added to the TRI by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The EPA noted that the dataset released is raw data and does not contain any summary or trend analysis and the EPA is now conducting additional quality checks on the preliminary data. The 2020 preliminary data will be updated periodically to reflect revisions to previously submitted data and late submissions of TRI reporting forms.
Most recently, in September, the EPA announced plans 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 PFAS and nutrients—from key industries.
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:
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.