PFAS Action Plan Lays Out Federal Strategy

PFAS_Testing(February 19. 2019) – EPA unveiled its much anticipated Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substance (PFAS) Action Plan on February 14, which highlights how the Agency will tackle growing concerns over these contaminants.

The Action Plan addresses the four concerns that then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt put forth during the May 2018 National Leadership Summit, but the Action Plan also lays out some additional strategies that could impact the municipal clean water community.

EPA plans to initiate steps to evaluate the need for a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for two PFAS constituents, Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS). The Agency is gathering the necessary data and expects to release a proposed rule for a national drinking water determination for public comment later this year.

The Agency is also beginning the regulatory steps to designate PFOA/PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) in an effort to leverage funding for the clean-up of known contaminated sites.

In designating these contaminants as hazardous substances, there may be unintended consequences and potential liability for the land application of biosolids containing trace amounts of PFOA/PFOS.  This is an issue that NACWA is closely focused on in its advocacy with both EPA and Congress. 

Other parts of the Action Plan that could impact the municipal clean water community include a subtle acknowledgement to strengthen the pretreatment program. EPA has identified several industries that are likely discharging PFAS in their wastewater and will begin a more detailed study to evaluate PFAS presence in industrial wastewater discharges. Also, EPA is evaluating whether there is available data and research to support the development of ambient water quality standards in order to control point-source PFAS discharges into receiving waters. 

EPA is developing groundwater clean-up recommendations and is moving forward with toxicity values for GenX and Perflurobutanesulonic Acid (PFBS). Additionally, the Action Plan identifies the need for new treatment and remediation techniques, the cost to remove these contaminants, and unintended consequences of specific technologies as important considerations for future actions. 

NACWA will continue to engage with EPA as the Action Plan evolves and will let members know as regulatory or legislative measures develop. If members have questions or concerns with PFAS, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.