EPA sets new water advisories for PFAS, $1B in funding

June 15, 2022
The agency established two new health advisories for GenX and PFBS while lowering health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, and invited states to apply for $1 billion to address contaminants in drinking water.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the latest action the PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

The agency also announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion – the first of $5 billion in infrastructure law grant funding – to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities.

These actions are part of EPA’s work to combat PFAS pollution and scientifically inform upcoming efforts, including its forthcoming proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFOA and PFOS, which the agency plans to release some time in the fall of 2022.

“People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge.”

“Today’s actions highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “EPA is also demonstrating its commitment to harmonize policies that strengthen public health protections with infrastructure funding to help communities—especially disadvantaged communities—deliver safe water.”

Assistant Administrator Fox announced these actions at the 3rd National PFAS Conference in Wilmington, N.C.

$1 Billion in Funding

As part of a government-wide effort to confront PFAS pollution, EPA is making available $1 billion in grant funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination.

The funding is the first of $5 billion through the infrastructure law that can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts. The funds can be used in small or disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water through actions such as technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training, and installation of centralized treatment technologies and systems.

The agency says that it will soon reach out to states and territories with information on how to submit their letter of intent to participate in this new grant program. EPA will also consult with Tribes and Alaskan Native Villages regarding the Tribal set-aside for this grant program.

Lifetime Advisories for Four PFAS

The agency is releasing PFAS health advisories for GenX, PFBS, PFOA, and PFOS.

These drinking water health advisories indicate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not expected to occur. The advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local officials can use to inform the development of monitoring plans, investments in treatment solutions, and future policies to protect the public from PFAS exposure.

EPA is issuing interim, updated drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that replace those EPA issued in 2016. The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect at this time.

The agency recommends states, Tribes, territories, and drinking water utilities that detect PFOA and PFOS take steps to reduce exposure.

Most uses of PFOA and PFOS were voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses, and these chemicals remain in the environment due to their lack of degradation.

For the first time, EPA is issuing final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (referred to as “GenX” chemicals).

In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and PFBS is considered a replacement for PFOS.

The GenX chemicals and PFBS health advisory levels are well above the level of detection, based on risk analyzes in recent scientific studies.

Next Steps

As part of the announcement, EPA said that it is moving forward with proposing a PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation in fall 2022. As EPA develops this proposed rule, the agency is also evaluating additional PFAS beyond PFOA and PFOS, and is considering actions to address groups of PFAS.

These latest interim health advisories aim provide guidance to states, Tribes, and water systems for the period prior to the regulation going into effect.

To receive grant funding announced, EPA recommends states and territories to submit a letter of intent by August 15, 2022.

PFAS Strategic Roadmap

These latest announcements are part of commitments made in EPA’s October 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

Under the Roadmap, EPA is working across the agency to protect the public from the health impacts of PFAS, including:

  • Issuing the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to improve EPA’s understanding of the frequency that 29 PFAS are found in the nation’s drinking water systems and at what levels.
  • Issuing the first Toxic Substances Control Act PFAS test order under the National PFAS Testing Strategy;
  • Adding five PFAS to EPA’s contaminated site cleanup tables;
  • Publishing draft aquatic life water quality criteria for PFOA and PFOS;
  • Issuing a memo to proactively address PFAS in Clean Water Act permitting; and
  • Publishing a new draft total adsorbable fluorine wastewater method.

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