Category: Emerging contaminants

As the EPA pursues PFAS standards, industry and residents are at odds over state regulation

Read the full story from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin residents affected by PFAS contamination say the Biden administration’s recently announced strategy to address harmful forever chemicals doesn’t go far enough and highlights the need for state standards. But industry officials argue state regulators should wait for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set federal drinking water regulations.

EPA proposes regulating ‘forever chemicals’ under hazardous waste law

Read the full story from Reuters. See also EPA eyes new rules for PFAS in waste from E&E News.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced it is preparing a rule that would list some so-called “forever chemicals” as hazardous substances that must be eliminated from industrial waste before it is discarded.

Under the plan, four compounds that are part of the wider family of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, could be added to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s (RCRA) list of “hazardous constituents” to “ensure they are subject to corrective action requirements.”

The chemicals are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and GenX.

3M agrees to pay $98 mln to resolve suits over ‘forever’ chemicals

Read the full story from Reuters.

Industrial conglomerate 3M Co on Tuesday said it had agreed to pay about $98.4 million to settle claims that it contaminated the Tennessee River with toxic chemicals.

3M agreed to resolve a lawsuit by environmental group Tennessee Riverkeeper and a separate class action by residents of Alabama’s Morgan County. It also negotiated a private settlement with Morgan County, the city of Decatur, where 3M’s local facility is based, and Decatur’s utility provider.

EPA seeks input on proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is inviting small entities, including qualifying businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and local governments, to participate as Small Entity Representatives (SERs) for a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel that will focus on the agency’s effort to develop a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This regulation represents one key way that EPA anticipates remediating PFAS to better protect communities under the recently announced PFAS Roadmap. The agency remains committed to engaging with stakeholders as the agency makes progress on this rulemaking.

PFAS are an urgent public health and environmental threat facing communities across the United States. As such, EPA is developing a proposed NPDWR for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in accordance with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and other applicable statutes. EPA is also evaluating additional PFAS and assessing the available science to consider regulations for groups of PFAS.

NPDWRs are legally enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) or treatment techniques that apply to public water systems. MCLs and treatment techniques protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water. When taking action on PFAS, EPA intends to ensure that small entities in disadvantaged communities are fully engaged in solutions.

The panel will include federal representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and EPA. The panel members ask a selected group of SERs to provide advice and recommendations on behalf of their company, community, or organization to inform the panel members about the potential impacts of the proposed rule on small entities.

EPA seeks self-nominations directly from the small entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs.

Self-nominations may be submitted through the link below and must be received by November 2, 2021.

EPA Administrator Regan announces comprehensive national strategy to confront PFAS pollution

“For far too long, families across America – especially those in underserved communities – have suffered from PFAS in their water, their air, or in the land their children play on,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will deliver protections to people who are hurting, by advancing bold and concrete actions that address the full lifecycle of these chemicals. Let there be no doubt that EPA is listening, we have your back, and we are laser focused on protecting people from pollution and holding polluters accountable.”

“This roadmap commits the EPA to quickly setting enforceable drinking water limits for these chemicals as well as giving stronger tools to communities to protect people’s health and the environment,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “As we continue partnering with the EPA on this and other important efforts, it is critical that Congress pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and the larger budget resolution that includes billions of dollars to address PFAS contamination.”

The Strategic Roadmap delivers on the agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment and answers the call for action on these persistent and dangerous chemicals. Today, alongside the release of the Roadmap, the agency is announcing a new national testing strategy that requires PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals. The PFAS to be tested will be selected based on an approach that breaks the large number of PFAS today into smaller categories based on similar features and considers what existing data are available for each category. EPA’s initial set of test orders for PFAS, which are expected in a matter of months, will be strategically selected from more than 20 different categories of PFAS. This set of orders will provide the agency with critical information on more than 2,000 other similar PFAS that fall within these categories.

The Roadmap lays out:

  • Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
  • A hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
  • Timelines for action—whether it is data collection or rulemaking—on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories.
  • review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
  • A final toxicity assessment for GenX, which can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
  • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.  

“I’m encouraged that EPA is giving this urgent public health threat the attention and seriousness it deserves,” said Senator Tom Carper. “This is truly a soup-to-nuts plan—one that commits to cleaning up PFAS in our environment while also putting protections in place to prevent more of these forever chemicals from finding their way into our lives. After the previous administration failed to follow through on its plan to address PFAS contamination, EPA’s new leadership promised action. I look forward to working with them on living up to this commitment.”

“Communities contaminated by these toxic forever chemicals have waited decades for action,” said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group. “So, it’s good news that Administrator Regan will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to take quick action to reduce PFOA and PFOS in tap water, to restrict industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water, and to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances to hold polluters accountable. It’s been more than 20 years since EPA and EWG first learned that these toxic forever chemicals were building up in our blood and increasing our likelihood of cancer and other health harms. It’s time for action, not more plans, and that’s what this Administrator will deliver. As significant as these actions are, they are just the first of many actions needed to protect us from PFAS, as the Administrator has said.”

EPA’s Strategic Roadmap is a critical step forward in addressing PFAS pollution. Every level of government – from local, to state, to Tribal, to federal will need to exercise increased and sustained leadership to continue the momentum and make progress on PFAS. President Biden has called for more than $10 billion in funding to address PFAS contamination through his Build Back Better agenda and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. These critical resources will enable EPA and other federal agencies to scale up the research and work, so that they meet the scale of the PFAS challenge.

Over the coming weeks, EPA will be working to partner for progress on PFAS. The agency will be engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to continue to identify collaborative solutions to the PFAS challenge, including two national webinars that will be held on October 26 and November 2. Please RSVP to the webinars using the hyperlinked dates.  

Background

In April 2021, Administrator Regan established the EPA Council on PFAS to address the dangerous impacts of PFAS contamination and meet the needs of EPA’s partners and communities across the United States. To date, under the Biden-Harris Administration, EPA has:

  • Launched a national PFAS testing strategy. 
  • Restarted rule development process for designating PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances. 
  • Built momentum to set national primary drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS, 
  • Announced actions to stop companies from dumping PFAS into America’s waterways. 
  • Formed a workgroup to champion regulating PFAS as categories. 
  • Proposed a rule to expand data collection efforts on PFAS.
  • Started planning to conduct expanded nationwide monitoring for PFAS in drinking water. 
  • Announced robust review process for new PFAS. 
  • Released preliminary Toxics Release Inventory data on PFAS.  
  • Updated a toxicity assessment for PFBS after rigorous scientific review.
  • Released a draft PFBA toxicity assessment for public comment and external peer review.

Additional information on the Strategic Roadmap: www.epa.gov/pfas.

Additional news coverage

EPA closer to unveiling plan for tackling ‘forever chemicals’

Read the full story at The Hill.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon unveil a plan to address what it sees as “inadequate” regulations on a class of toxic chemicals that disproportionately affects vulnerable groups, according to documents obtained by The Hill.

Study: Breast milk found less nutritious due to chemicals

Read the full story from Örebro Universitet.

New research shows that exposure to PFAS chemicals is linked with decreasing nutritional value of breast milk. “It’s nearly impossible for people to avoid these harmful chemicals. Therefore, we must show what effects they have and get such toxic chemicals banned,” says Tuulia Hyötyläinen, professor of chemistry at Örebro University.

PFAS Exposure Pathway Factsheet

This fact sheet from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation describes how humans can be directly and indirectly exposed to PFAS chemicals.

Addressing challenges of PFAS: Protecting groundwater and treating contaminated sources

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

In 2019, EPA geochemist Rick Wilkin, helped to develop three teams to focus on treatment, characterization, and risk management of PFAS in groundwater. This collaborative work includes EPA experts from Regions 2 and 3, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

Partners open source PFAS alternative for food packaging

Read the full story at Waste360.

The clock is ticking for food manufacturers and consumer packaged goods companies who use per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS)-containing materials. By January 2024 these toxic “forever chemicals” will be prohibited in the manufacturing of food contact packaging. In response, specialty chemical company Solenis and Zume, who supplies sustainable substitutes for single-use plastic, developed and open sourced what they call their recipe and manufacturing process for PFAS-free thermoformed molded fiber food service applications.

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