EPA Region 1 Finalizes NPDES General Permit with National Implications

Oct 6, 2022

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1 issued an updated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for medium-sized POTWs in Massachusetts on September 28. Because this permit is issued by EPA itself and not a Clean Water Act (CWA) authorized state permitting authority, it serves as a good example of how EPA would like to see delegated states craft their permits. 

NACWA weighed in with comments on the draft version that this general permit could serve as a lodestar for state regulators to follow and could trigger a tidal wave of similar prescriptive requirements across the country, notably with respect to PFAS monitoring and pretreatment obligations. 

NACWA’s comments raised concerns with EPA Region 1’s use of the CWA NPDES program to mandate medium-sized POTWs collect and report PFAS presence in influent, effluent and biosolids, as well as look upstream at certain industrial users within a service area. This applies to utilities with and without an industrial pretreatment program.

The General Permit identifies 10 industries that are likely to have PFAS discharges into POTWs including paper and packaging manufacturers, metal finishers and platers, landfills, firefighting training facilities, and airports but it also includes “known or suspected PFAS contaminated sites” and “any other known or expected sources of PFAS.” NACWA commented that this fact-finding source identification effort places a considerable burden on POTWs that likely do not have the staff or knowledge of upstream PFAS users which will subsequently require significant resources to pinpoint and investigate these possible innumerable sources.

NACWA urged EPA Region 1 to consider publishing guidance that would help utilities structure a PFAS source identification program that could include how to begin outreach to upstream sources, how to develop pollution minimization plans, how to find accredited laboratories and sample, as well as how to work productively within their communities to mitigate industrial and non-industrial PFAS sources.

Permittees are required to sample and electronically report PFAS concentrations in their influent, effluent, and biosolids each quarter and industrial sources annually using EPA’s Draft Method 1633—which is not a Clean Water Act Part 136 approved method and remains in multi-laboratory validation review. NACWA encourages the medium sized POTWs covered by this permit to reach out to laboratories early because there are only about 10 laboratories nationally accredited to analyze EPA’s Draft Method 1633.

You can read EPA Region 1’s response to public comments here. The permit is effective on November 1, 2022 and requires eligible facilities to submit a Notice of Intent to be covered under the permit by December 1, 2022.

If members have questions on this EPA Region 1 permit and its potential PFAS implications nationally, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.

Back To Top
Join NACWA Engage™ Careers Contact Us