EPA Unveils Sweeping New Strategy for Regulating PFAS Chemicals in Drinking Water
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces a new initiative aimed at addressing highly toxic chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The plan includes an accelerated timeline for regulating, remediating, and researching two widely-used PFAS compounds, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—designating them as hazardous chemicals under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
There are 4,000+ PFAS; these man-made chemicals, often referred to as “forever chemicals,” do not break down in our bodies or in the environment over time. The EPA plans to group these chemicals into twenty subcategories and within months could begin requiring manufacturers to conduct testing and fund property studies under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). The data collected will help guide future regulations until they are ultimately phased out of manufacturing.
“How does the USEPA’s new comprehensive approach of Research, Restrict and Remediate affect the environmental industry?” asked James Hogan, President & CEO of The ELAM Group. “For starters, expect a proposed rule designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous chemicals under CERCLA by next spring. This alone will create a potentially significant additive cost to corporate environmental liability that may not have been provisioned 5 years ago. Such regulation creates notable financial risks in mergers & acquisitions, insurance and transactional due diligence.”
The EPA’s strategy also includes a schedule for setting limits for PFAS in the nation’s drinking water supply and requiring manufacturers to disclose their product’s chemical and toxicity levels. The plan is intended to restrict more PFAS from being released into the nation’s water supply and to accelerate cleanup of contaminated sites. The EPA is expected to declare PFAS as hazardous substances under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA—meaning these new regulations will also impact Superfund sites.
By mid-2023, the EPA is expected to set enforceable drinking water limits with plans to deliver a finalized assessment for PFOA and PFOS by late 2024.