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NACWA Joins Congressional Letter Seeking PFAS CERCLA Exemption; Files Comments on EPA Permit with Monitoring Requirements

May 5, 2022

NACWA led an effort with ten other water sector associations during Water Week 2022 on a joint letter asking Congress to explicitly exempt public wastewater, drinking water, stormwater and water reuse utilities from PFAS liability under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

As organizations dedicated to the protection of public health and the environment, NACWA and its water sector partners call on Congress to maintain CERCLA’s bedrock principle of polluter pays and to reject any policy that seeks to shift the burden for PFAS cleanups onto the public.

The associations, in addition to this joint letter, have spent months uniting behind proposed legislative exemption language in the event EPA moves forward with a hazardous substance designation for PFAS under CERCLA.

Without a clear, narrowly tailored PFAS exemption under CERCLA, NACWA members and their ratepayers will be facing a “community pays” outcome that unfairly shifts the clean-up and liability costs onto municipalities and the ratepayers they serve—many of whom are already facing affordability challenges. When acting in accordance with all applicable laws, the water sector should be provided with an exemption to avoid this outcome.

NACWA also submitted comments April 26 to EPA Region 1 on its proposed draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for Medium Wastewater Facilities in Massachusetts. This is the first draft general permit issued directly by EPA that requires PFAS monitoring, and it could be a signal for state Clean Water Act authorized permitting agencies elsewhere to incorporate similar requirements.

NACWA has concerns that this draft general permit could trigger a tidal wave of similar prescriptive PFAS requirements across the country that could have unintended consequences. The permit requires quarterly sampling of influent, effluent, biosolids, and upstream industrial sources using the unpromulgated method for detecting PFAS, Method 1633. Utilities are required to report to EPA and the state through their discharge monitoring report concentrations for 6 PFAS chemicals and all other PFAS found.

In addition, the draft permit requires permittees—those with pretreatment programs and those without established pretreatment programs—to look upstream at industrial sources, including some industries that are quite unclear. For example, utilities are to sample for PFAS at “contaminated sites,” “manufacturers of parts with polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon type coatings,” and “any other known or expected sources of PFAS.”

Without guidance, a medium-sized utility without a pretreatment program will likely have significant difficulty identifying and sampling these types of industrial dischargers that could be numerous simply because PFAS can be found in many commercial products.

NACWA will continue to monitor developments and keep the membership updated.  Questions can be directed to Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.  

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