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EPA Delivers Results on PFAS Action Plan

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Agency delivers on the historic commitments made in the PFAS Action Plan to address these emerging chemicals of concern and protect public health

On January 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a suite of actions from across the agency that will continue the significant progress the agency has made to implement the PFAS Action Plan—the most comprehensive cross-agency plan ever to address an emerging chemical of concern. EPA has made progress in all of its program areas under the Action Plan, and the agency is helping states, tribes, and local communities across the country target PFAS reductions and protect public health.

“I am proud of the work EPA has done over the past two years under the PFAS Action Plan, which has touched every office in the agency and every region,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our commitment to our mission to protect public health and the environment from these emerging chemicals of concern has been unwavering and we have delivered results for every key commitment we made under the plan.”

EPA is issuing the following actions:

Moving Forward on Regulating PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water by Issuing Final Regulatory Determinations

After evaluating more than 11,000 public comments, the agency is taking the next step to regulate these two PFAS under the processes laid out in the Safe Drinking Water Act by issuing final regulatory determinations for PFOA and PFOS. EPA will now initiate the process to develop a national primary drinking water regulation for these two PFAS, which will include further analyses, scientific review, and opportunity for public comment. Additionally, EPA intends to fast track evaluation of additional PFAS for future drinking water regulatory determinations if necessary information and data become available. For additional information: www.epa.gov/safewater

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Addressing PFOA and PFOS in the Environment

EPA is issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to get public comment and data to inform the agency’s ongoing evaluation of PFOA and PFOS. This information will also help the agency consider whether additional regulatory steps to address PFAS contamination in the environment are necessary. The agency is seeking comment about whether it should take any additional regulatory steps to address PFAS contamination in the environment, including, but not limited to, designating PFOA and PFOS and other PFAS chemicals as CERCLA hazardous substances and seeking comment on whether PFOA and PFOS and other PFAS chemicals should be subject to regulation as hazardous waste under RCRAEPA will accept comments on the ANPRM for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. For more information: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/epa-actions-address-pfas

New Data on PFAS in Drinking Water

EPA also proposed to collect new PFAS data under the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). The new data will be used to better understand occurrence and prevalence of 29 PFAS in the nation’s drinking water. The UCMR 5 proposal includes monitoring for six PFAS that were part of UCMR 3, now using new analytical methods that support lower reporting levels. EPA also proposes that an additional 23 PFAS be monitored using methods developed by EPA. In addition to PFAS, UCMR 5 proposes monitoring for lithium in drinking water. The proposal would require pre-sampling preparations in 2022, sample collection from 2023-2025, and reporting of final results through 2026. EPA is accepting public comment on the proposed UCMR 5 for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. EPA will hold a virtual stakeholder meeting twice during the public comment period. For additional information: www.epa.gov/safewater

Releases Toxicity Assessment for PFBS

EPA is releasing a toxicity assessment for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). Today’s PFBS assessment is part of EPA’s efforts to increase the amount of research and information that is publicly available on chemicals in the PFAS family. This assessment is not a regulation, rather it provides a critical part of the scientific foundation for human health risk assessment decision-making. The information in the PFBS toxicity assessment may be used by federal partners, states, tribes, and local communities, along with specific exposure and other relevant information to determine, under the appropriate regulations and statutes, if and when it is necessary to take action to address potential risks associated with human exposures to PFBS.  The PFBS assessment provides toxicity values and information about the adverse effects of the chemical and the evidence on which the value is based, including the strengths and limitations of the data. All users, including risk assessors and risk managers, are advised to review the information, including potential uncertainties, provided in this document to ensure that the assessment is appropriate for the circumstances (e.g., exposure pathways, concentrations, presence of sensitive subpopulations) in question and the risk management decisions that would be supported by the risk assessment. For additional information: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/epa-actions-address-pfas

Next Steps to Address PFAS in Wastewater

Additionally, EPA announced next steps to address PFAS in wastewater, where appropriate. The agency announced an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to collect data and information regarding manufacturers of PFAS and the presence and treatment of PFAS in discharges from these facilities. EPA is also requesting information regarding PFAS formulators—facilities that produce a variety of PFAS products and materials from PFAS feedstocks. This action is based on information the Agency has collected as described in the recently finalized Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14. The information collected through this action will help inform whether these industrial sources warrant regulation through national Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) to address PFAS discharges.

Coordinating PFAS Research Across the Federal Government

EPA, in partnership with USDA, DOD and HHS, asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)’s to assess the federal government’s research efforts into the human health effects of PFAS. A virtual public workshop was convened on October 26-27, 2020 where an independent panel of experts heard from government scientists and reviewed federal agency research to identify potential research and data gaps. A draft report is expected to be published later this week. 

Background on PFAS

Addressing PFAS has been an active and ongoing priority for EPA. Over the past two years, EPA has delivered results for every key commitment made under the PFAS Action Plan. A full list of highlighted actions are listed below.

Highlighted Action: Water

  • In December 2019, EPA accomplished a key milestone in the PFAS Action Plan by publishing a new validated method to accurately test for 11 additional PFAS in drinking water. Method 533 complements EPA Method 537.1, and the agency can now measure 29 chemicals.
  • In November 2020, EPA issued a memo detailing an interim National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permitting strategy for PFAS. The agency also released information on progress in developing new analytical methods to test for PFAS compounds in wastewater and other environmental media.
  • In January 2021, EPA announced final determinations to regulate PFOS and PFOA in drinking water and a proposal to require monitoring for 29 PFAS in drinking water under the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule.
  • In January 2021, EPA finalized Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14 and announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to collect data and information regarding PFAS manufacturers that will help inform whether these industrial sources warrant regulation through national Effluent Limitation Guidelines to address PFAS discharges.

Highlighted Action: Cleanup

  • In December 2019, EPA issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which provides guidance for federal cleanup programs (e.g., CERCLA and RCRA) that will also be helpful to states and tribes.
  • The recommendations provide a starting point for making site-specific cleanup decisions and will help protect drinking water resources in communities across the country.
  • In December 2020, EPA issued Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of PFAS and Materials Containing PFAS for public input.
  • In January 2021, EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for consideration of additional authorities for addressing PFAS in the environment.

Highlighted Action: Toxics

  • In September 2019, EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
  • In June 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that added a list of 172 PFAS chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory reporting as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
  • In July 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that can stop products containing PFAS from entering or reentering the marketplace without EPA’s explicit permission.
    • In December 2020, EPA asked for public input on new draft guidance that outlines which imported articles are covered by the agency’s July 2020 final rule that prohibits companies from manufacturing, importing, processing, or using certain long-chain PFAS without prior EPA review and approval.

 Highlighted Action: Scientific Leadership

Toxicity

  • EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions.
  • An additional five PFAS toxicity assessments have been initiated under the IRIS program.

Analytical Methods

  • EPA continues to develop new methods to test for additional PFAS in drinking water.
  • The agency is also validating analytical methods for surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soils, sediments and biosolids; developing new methods to test for PFAS in air and emissions; and improving laboratory methods to discover unknown PFAS.

Clean-up & Modeling

  • EPA is developing exposure models to understand how PFAS moves through the environment to impact people and ecosystems.
  • EPA is working to develop tools to assist officials with the cleanup of contaminated sites.
  • In July 2020, EPA added new treatment information for removing PFAS from drinking water.

Categorization & Prioritization

  • EPA has undertaken a research effort to test a diverse set of ~150 PFAS through a battery of toxicological and toxicokinetic New Approach Methods (NAMs).
  • The results from the NAMs tests will be used to inform and refine PFAS categories and then used to prioritize PFAS categories for additional toxicity testing.
  • A draft EPA report containing the results from the initial NAMs testing and refined PFAS categories is expected mid-2021.

Innovation

  • The PFAS Innovative Treatment Team was a full-time team of eleven EPA research scientists dedicated to a single goal for 6-months: to identify, develop, and verify a suite of effective approaches and technologies for destroying or disposing of PFAS-contaminated media.
  • The team was successful in significantly accelerating research to evaluate “traditional” thermal treatment of PFAS waste and catalyzing research to identify and evaluate potential innovative approaches for PFAS waste treatment.
  • Preliminary results in laboratory and pilot-scale treatment systems demonstrate up to 99% loss of initial PFAS compounds in contaminated waste. However, there is a need to more fully understand the potential for fluorinated byproduct formation.
  • EPA partnered with federal and state agencies to issue the “Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS” Challenge, which solicited innovative solutions for non-thermal destruction of PFAS in concentrated aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). Winners of the “Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS” Challenge are expected to be announced in February. We are currently reviewing more than 60 potential solutions from 18 countries.

Highlighted Action: Technical Assistance

  • Just as important as the progress on PFAS at the federal level are EPA efforts to form partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities across the country.
  • EPA has provided assistance to more than 30 states to help address PFAS, and the agency is continuing to build on this support.
  • These joint projects allow EPA to take the knowledge of its world-class scientists and apply it in a collaborative fashion where it counts most.

Highlighted Action: Enforcement

  • EPA continues to use enforcement tools, when appropriate, to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assist states in enforcement activities.
  • EPA has already taken actions to address PFAS, including issuing Safe Drinking Water Act orders and providing support to states. See examples in the PFAS Action Plan.
  • EPA has continued to address PFAS using a variety of enforcement tools, bringing PFAS actions to a total of 16.  Enforcement work continues to ensure public health and environmental protections.

Highlighted Action: Grants and Funding

  • Under this Administration, EPA’s Office of Research and Development has awarded over $15 million through dozens of grants for PFAS research.
  • In May 2019, EPA awarded approximately $3.9 million through two grants for research that will improve the agency’s understanding of human and ecological exposure to PFAS in the environment. This research will also promote a greater awareness of how to restore water quality in PFAS-impacted communities.
  • In September 2019, EPA awarded nearly $6 million to fund research by eight organizations to expand the agency’s understanding of the environmental risks posed by PFAS in waste streams and to identify practical approaches to manage potential impacts as PFAS enters the environment.
  • In August 2020, EPA awarded $4.8 million in funding for federal research to help identify potential impacts of PFAS to farms, ranches, and rural communities.

Highlighted Action: Risk Communications

  • EPA is working collaboratively to develop a risk communication toolbox that includes multimedia materials and messaging for federal, state, tribal, and local partners to use with the public.

Additional information about PFAS can be found at: www.epa.gov/pfas

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