The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent its proposed rule to set drinking water regulations for two key per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to its Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, according to an article by Stephanie Schlea for the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA).
The step is an important part of EPA’s efforts to regulate PFAS. The proposed rule, if passed, would formally regulate two major PFAS: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Importantly, this regulation would set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL)s for PFOA and PFOS in public drinking water systems.
The Safe Drinking Water Act allows EPA to maintain a list of potential contaminants through its Contaminate Candidate List. The agency regularly selects contaminants from this list and decides whether regulate them with a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR, also known as a primary standard). NPDWRs are standards that the EPA can legally enforce upon public water systems, establishing an MCL for the given contaminant.
EPA had made a final decision to issue a significant NPDWR for PFOA and PFOS in spring of 2021, and the agency was able to submit the proposed rule to OMB on Oct. 6. According to ASDWA, it isn’t clear how long OMB will take to review the proposal — but the agency has said, multiple times, that it will publish the proposal by the end of the year.
Major Year for PFAS
The proposal is another milestone for for a year that's making major changes to the regulatory landscape of PFAS and drinking water.
In 2022, EPA published a new testing method for PFAS in water at the part per billion level; issued Clean Water Act aquatic life criteria for PFOA and PFOS; added five PFAS chemicals to its list of regional screening and removal management levels; released drinking water health advisories for four PFAS chemicals; and proposed designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances.
In that same year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that required EPA to quickly publish water quality criteria for PFAS and included several amendments aimed at limiting PFAS contamination.