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NACWA Opposes Proposed EPA CERCLA PFAS Designations, Highlights Significant Potential Liability to Public Clean Water Utilities & Local Communities

Nov 8, 2022

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) filed comments on Nov. 7 expressing serious concerns with EPA’s proposed rule to designate Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

While NACWA supports EPA efforts to address PFOA and PFOS and remove them from the environment, the Agency’s proposed designations fail to advance the “polluter pays” approach that EPA has repeatedly espoused. The proposal instead threatens to push significant costs and liabilities onto local communities; increase affordability concerns, particularly for disadvantaged communities; and untenably put cleanup actions ahead of critical source control and risk assessment processes. EPA declined to consider these costs in its impact analysis, focusing narrowly on direct reporting cost while glossing over significant burdens that communities will face. 

“The simple fact is that public wastewater and stormwater systems are passive receivers of these chemicals,” says Adam Krantz, CEO of NACWA.  “Public clean water utilities neither produce nor profit from them. But EPA’s current proposal unnecessarily risks shifting the cost for cleaning them up from a ‘polluter pays’ model to a ‘community pays’ model where local clean water ratepayers will be stuck with the bill. It is critical that EPA address this shortcoming before the proposal is finalized to ensure local utilities are not on the hook.”

NACWA strongly supports a true polluter pays model that places the costs of remediation on those who produced and profited from pollution. The public should not – and often cannot afford to – bear these costs in their utility bills. But under CERCLA’s current framework, the blanket designation of PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances would accomplish just the opposite of what EPA intends, creating a “community pays” outcome that will have disproportionate impacts on historically disadvantaged communities while in many instances letting chemical companies off the hook. 

EPA must take steps to avoid this, including by supporting the Congressional enactment of a clear, narrowly tailored CERCLA PFAS exemption for public clean water agencies that are acting in accordance with all applicable laws. 

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ABOUT NACWA

For over 50 years, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) has been the nation’s recognized leader in legislative, regulatory, legal and communications advocacy on the full spectrum of clean water issues. NACWA represents public wastewater and stormwater agencies of all sizes nationwide. Our unique and growing network strengthens the advocacy voice for the public clean water sector and helps advance policies to provide affordable and sustainable clean water for all.  Our vision is to advance sustainable and responsible policy initiatives that help to shape a strong and sustainable clean water future. For more information, visit us at www.nacwa.org.

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