Feds Vastly Underestimate Forever Chemical Clean-Up Costs for Water Sector; PFAS Myths Report Shows Operational Costs for Wastewater Utilities to go up 60%, Drinking Water Utilities Require at Least $50 Billion for New Treatment Technology
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orange County Water District and West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority provide real word perspective on impact of PFAS to water sector.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 18, 2023) – Public water sector utilities joined a national news conference today hosted by the Water Coalition Against PFAS to dispel the leading falsehoods associated with the clean-up of forever chemicals, and to issue a new myth-busting report setting the record straight that the annual cost for PFAS remediation will be considerably higher than Congress and EPA anticipate.
The new report, “Correcting PFAS Myths,” includes findings from Coalition members clearly showing that annual PFAS clean-up costs will be as much as three times higher than current EPA projections that are being used to inform new regulations.
The full Water Coalition Against PFAS “Correcting PFAS Myths” report is available for download here.
A recent national survey of public clean water utilities conducted by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) suggests operational costs for individual utilities could increase by more than 60 percent as a direct result of new PFAS regulations. Total amounts will vary from utility to utility, depending on the specific regulations implemented. However, a new study from Minnesota supports this finding, showing total wastewater costs to remove PFAS to be between $14 and $28 billion over 20 years in that state alone. NACWA said that wastewater utilities alone in the US will be responsible for tens of billions of dollars in additional costs to address PFAS – all of which must be passed on to ratepayers.
Separately, according to a report commissioned by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and prepared by Black & Veatch, drinking water utilities will need to invest more than $50 billion to install and operate treatment technology over the next 20 years, in order to comply with new PFAS drinking water standards. Additional analysis by Hazen & Sawyer estimates that a hazardous substance designation for PFOA and PFOS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) could add another $3.5 billion per year in disposal costs for the water sector, although this does not account for potential CERCLA liability costs that utilities could face.
Jason Dadakis, Executive Director of Water Quality & Technical Resources with the Orange County Water District in California said: “Drinking water utilities all across the country are on the front lines of public health protection every day. The regulations for PFAS being proposed by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act will place unprecedent financial strain on utilities to deal with a chemical that they had no role in producing. Unfortunately, CERCLA can be misused by responsible parties to entangle utilities in unnecessary and costly litigation. It is critical that Congress address this concern by ensuring water sector utilities are not left holding the bag for clean-up costs of chemicals they have no responsibility for making or distributing.”
Jeaniece Slater, General Manager of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority in Decatur, Alabama, and member of the Alabama Rural Water Association Board of Directors, said: “PFAS chemicals are impacting utilities of all sizes and in all corners of the country. But the challenges are especially acute for small and rural utilities that often have fewer resources to deal with new regulations and requirements. The reality is that, if Congress doesn’t act and protect water utilities from misplaced PFAS liability under CERCLA, small and rural utilities across the nation could find themselves and their communities bankrupt – essentially paying to clean-up the pollution created by private companies. Congress simply cannot allow this to happen.”
Nathan Gardner-Andrews, Chief Advocacy & Policy Officer with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), said: “Clean water utilities neither created not profited from PFAS chemicals. But under the current EPA regulatory approach, these utilities and their ratepayers will be stuck with the clean-up costs instead of the private companies that have made billions off these chemicals. NACWA has member utilities that have been impacted by significant litigation over a CERCLA clean-up for a pollutant they were not responsible for, and we know first-hand the importance of protecting clean water utilities from unfair and misplaced liability.”
In addition to water sector PFAS cost projections, “Correcting PFAS Myths” reveals the fragility of the “polluter pays” principle under CERCLA and the added cost to water ratepayers that will result from EPA’s proposed CERCLA hazardous substance designation of PFOS and PFOA.
The Report also looks at new technologies being proposed by regulators to reduce PFAS in drinking water and wastewater, including reverse osmosis and ion exchange, revealing high-tech is not the silver bullet that lawmakers would have us believe, and that Congress must hold the real polluters accountable for PFAS clean-up costs in order to have sustainable, affordable, remediation efforts.
ABOUT THE WATER COALITION AGAINST PFAS
The Water Coalition Against PFAS is made up of five of the nation’s leading water sector associations – the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), American Water Works Association (AWWA), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) – and is focused on educating federal policymakers on the impacts of PFAS to the water sector and advocating for valid, science-based PFAS regulations and legislation.
The Coalition submitted a letter to Congress on February 3, 2023 articulating support for holding PFAS polluters accountable for the clean-up costs under CERCLA, while creating a statutory exemption from PFAS liability for water systems who merely passively receive PFAS in their treatment and delivery processes.
The Coalition also supports legislation sponsored by Sen. Cindy Lummis and co-sponsored by seven other Senators which would preserve the “polluter pays” principle for clean-ups of PFAS under CERCLA by protecting drinking water and wastewater systems from clean-up liability when they are otherwise in compliance with all applicable federal environmental laws.
ABOUT THE GROUPS
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.
The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) has been the unified and definitive voice for the nation’s largest publicly owned drinking water systems for over 40 years. AMWA’s membership services more than 160 million people with safe drinking water.
The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to training, supporting, and promoting the water and wastewater professionals that serve small and rural communities across the country. NRWA provides training and technical assistance through 50 affiliated State Rural Water Associations that currently have over 31,000 utility system members.
Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most vital resource. With approximately 50,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of more than 30,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. Established in 1928, WEF’s mission is to inspire the water community in pursuit of human and environmental well-being. WEF’s goals are to attract and develop a passionate workforce, cultivate a purpose-driven community to sustainably solve water challenges for all, and lead the transformation to the circular water economy.
The Orange County Water District (OCWD) is an internationally recognized leader in the water industry and its international reach is growing. OCWD takes the limited water supply found in nature and supplements it to provide water for more than 2.5 million people in Orange County, California. Since 1933, when the California State Legislature formed it, OCWD has been entrusted to guard the region’s groundwater basin. OCWD manages and replenishes the basin, ensures water reliability and quality, prevents seawater intrusion, and protects Orange County’s rights to Santa Ana River water.
The West Morgan – East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority strives to provide quality water and sewer service to the people of western Morgan County and eastern Lawrence County in Alabama.
CONTACT: Patrick Mitchell for more information or to arrange interviews with any of the experts from today’s news conference or from Water Coalition Against PFAS at firstname.lastname@example.org.