DEEP DIVE: U.S. EPA: Roadmap Shows "Steady Progress to Protect Communities From PFAS Pollution"

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February 9, 2024Sandy Smith, Senior Reporter, 3E News TeamBlog

(Editor’s Note: 3E is expanding news coverage to provide customers with insights into topics that enable a safer, more sustainable world by protecting people, safeguarding products, and helping businesses grow. Deep Dive articles, produced by reporters, feature interviews with subject matter experts and influencers as well as exclusive analysis provided by 3E researchers and consultants.)

In December 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap: Second Annual Progress Report, which outlines key accomplishments achieved under its PFAS Strategic Roadmap over the past year across three fronts – to restrict, remediate, and research per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – all centered on health protections.

Two years into implementation of the Roadmap, the agency reports it is confronting PFAS contamination by “following the science, leveraging all available tools and authorities, holding polluters accountable, and investing historic resources to protect communities.”

“This PFAS Roadmap progress report illustrates EPA’s ongoing commitment to protect people from the harmful effects of forever chemicals,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By combining science-based solutions, historic funding, and impactful regulations, EPA is following through on the vision set out in our Roadmap – to protect people, achieve environmental justice, and improve the lives of hardworking families across America.”

In 2023, as part of the U.S. government strategy to protect communities from the impacts of forever chemicals, the EPA took the following actions:

  • Released a final rule that should improve reporting on PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) by eliminating an exemption that allowed facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals were used in small concentrations. Under this new rule, the EPA will receive more comprehensive data on PFAS and will share these data with its partners and the public.
  • Issued a framework for reviewing PFAS to ensure they are used as safely as possible.
  • Proposed to list perfluorooctonoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA/Superfund) and anticipates issuing a final rule in early 2024. This action would give the agency the power to improve transparency around PFAS releases, help ensure that polluters pay for treatment and cleanup, and help communities that are facing significant pollution quickly receive effective protections.
  • Took steps to stop PFAS polluters, including adding PFAS as an EPA enforcement and compliance priority from 2024-2027.
  • Proposed the first national drinking water standard for six PFAS in March 2023. Once final – predicted to be in early 2024 by the EPA – the agency anticipates this rule will save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of avoidable illnesses. Also, to better understand where PFAS exist and how people are being exposed to them, the EPA initiated nationwide monitoring for 29 PFAS at more than 10,000 public water systems under the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. Results are posted publicly each quarter through the EPA’s website.
  • Deployed infrastructure funding to invest in infrastructure projects to address PFAS in water as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The EPA is dedicating $10 billion to removing PFAS and other emerging contaminants from the water supply.
  • Took steps to use permitting and regulatory authority of the Clean Water Act to reduce PFAS pollution in U.S. waters, including specific regulations to limit PFAS discharges from PFAS manufacturers, metal finishers, and landfills.
  • Continued to build the scientific foundation on PFAS through research and development. The agency is investing in research to fill gaps in our understanding of PFAS, to identify which additional PFAS may pose human health and ecological risks at which exposure levels, and to develop methods to test, measure, remove, and destroy them.
  • Held listening sessions with community members impacted by PFAS in each of its 10 regions, as well as a session specifically designed for Tribal partners. Feedback shared during these sessions, in coordination with recommendations from the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Local Government Advisory Committee, will be used to ensure that communities with environmental justice concerns have equitable access to information and solutions.

“One thing is clear: Americans don’t have to choose between clean air, land, and water or a prosperous, vibrant, and secure nation,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox and co-chair of EPA’s Council on PFAS. “As our whole of agency progress clearly illustrates, we are protecting people’s health while catalyzing research and innovation, fueling new markets and jobs, and prioritizing equitable infrastructure and treatment solutions for all people in this country.”

Looking ahead to 2024, the EPA anticipates continuing its 2023 progress with several critical actions, including finalizing national drinking water standards for several PFAS; taking final action to list certain PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA; proposing Effluent Limitation Guidelines for PFAS manufacturers; issuing guidance on destroying and disposing of PFAS; finalizing new methods to monitor for PFAS in a wide range of media; and proposing rules designating certain PFAS as hazardous constituents under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The agency also expects to continue engaging closely with its state partners, who are actively working to address PFAS issues in their communities.

Read the full report here

About the author: Sandy Smith, Senior Reporter, 3E, is an award-winning newspaper reporter and business-to-business journalist who has spent 20+ years researching and writing about EHS, regulatory compliance, and risk management and networking with EHS professionals. She is passionate about helping to build and maintain safe workplaces and promote workplace cultures that support EHS. She has presented at major conferences and has been interviewed about workplace safety and risk by The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and USA Today.