The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published proposed regulations limiting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) would set federal guidelines for Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for six PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).
This is just the latest step toward achieving the goals set forth in the EPA’s Strategic PFAS Roadmap. Released in October 2021, the roadmap is designed to fill a critical gap in federal PFAS oversight, providing a floor of federal-level protections and support for states’ ongoing efforts to address these chemicals.
Despite some states having already established their own PFAS drinking water restrictions independent of the EPA, this plan would establish national standards that would be mandatory for utilities, private businesses, enterprises, and industries to follow.
The proposed rule would require public water systems to monitor for these PFAS and complete the initial monitoring phase within three years of the rule promulgation date.
Results acquired during the initial monitoring phase will be used to determine ongoing compliance monitoring requirements. From there, water systems with regulated PFAS above the proposed MCLs will be required to install water treatment systems or take additional action to reduce levels until compliant.
The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations could likely require major upgrades for operations and utilities—with EPA estimating costs exceeding $1.2 billion per year. Understanding the complexity of PFAS chemicals will be critical in addressing specific contamination and determining the ideal action for site-specific footprints. EPA expects approximately 66,000 water systems would be subject to the rule with as many as 6,300 systems anticipated to exceed at least one MCL.
While the proposed PFAS NPDWR does not require any action until finalized, EPA continues taking strategic and prompt action toward regulating, restricting, and remediating PFAS chemicals across air, soil, and water. The agency also announced an additional $2 billion is available for addressing a wide range of contaminants in drinking water, including PFAS.
EPA has opened a public comment period until May 30 and anticipates moving forward with finalizing the regulation by the end of the year. If fully implemented, EPA anticipates the rule preventing thousands of adverse health effects and a reduction in ecosystem damage. With so much on the line, these regulations could lead to critical PFAS-related remediation requirements, quickly.