EPA releases PFAS Groundwater Guidance for federal cleanup programs

Dec. 30, 2019
Agency begins fulfilling PFAS Action Plan commitment.

WASHINGTON, DEC 30, 2019 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) under federal cleanup programs last week, a priority action under EPA’s PFAS Action Plan. Aggressively addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is an active and ongoing effort for the agency.

“Today, we are delivering on one of our most important commitments under the PFAS Action Plan,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during the official announcement. “The interim recommendations will provide clear and consistent guidance for federal cleanup programs and will help protect drinking water resources in communities across the country. This is a critical tool for our state, tribal, and local partners to use to protect public health and address these chemicals.”

“We welcome the EPA's release of the Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA/PFAS under federal cleanup programs,” said the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO).  “Our members are working every day to address this important issue across the country and we look forward to reviewing the just released document, which we hope provides clear and consistent guidance on this evolving national issue.”

Federal agencies and states have asked EPA to provide guidance on this issue, and EPA is following through on its commitment. After reviewing public comments on the agency’s April 2019 draft guidance, EPA is finalizing these interim recommendations based on the available data and scientific information on PFAS toxicity. EPA acknowledges that the scientific information on these compounds continues to evolve. As part of the PFAS Action Plan, EPA is continuing to develop and assess toxicity information, test methods, laboratory methods, analytical methods, exposure models, and treatment methods, among other research efforts to improve our knowledge about this class of chemicals. As new information becomes available on other PFAS chemicals, the agency will consider additional recommendations as the agency advances its knowledge of these other substances. 

With these interim recommendations, EPA is prioritizing public health impacts by focusing on addressing groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water. The guidance recommends:

  • Using a screening level of 40 parts per trillion (ppt) to determine if PFOA and/or PFOS is present at a site and may warrant further attention.
  • Screening levels are risk-based values that are used to determine if levels of contamination may warrant further investigation at a site.
  • Using EPA’s PFOA and PFOS Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory level of 70 ppt as the preliminary remediation goal (PRG) for contaminated groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water, where no state or tribal MCL or other applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (ARARs) are available or sufficiently protective. 
  • PRGs are generally initial targets for cleanup, which may be adjusted on a site-specific basis as more information becomes available.

The interim recommendations and additional information can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/interim-recommendations-addressing-groundwater-contaminated-pfoa-and-pfos