The U.S. EPA has released its second annual report on PFAS progress, which highlights the agency’s accomplishments under its PFAS Strategic Roadmap.
The report outlines accomplishments under the Roadmap over the past year across three fronts — to restrict, remediate and research PFAS.
“The Roadmap is our commitment to the American people to confront PFAS contamination head on—by following the science, leveraging all available tools and authorities, holding polluters accountable, and investing historic resources to protect communities,” said Radhika Fox, Assistant Administrator for Water and co-chair of EPA’s Council on PFAS. “PFAS are an urgent public health concern, and under the Biden Administration, our second report on the Agency’s progress shows how EPA is delivering on its mission to protect our land, air, and water – and the communities who rely on them – from these chemicals.”
The report’s key 2023 accomplishments include efforts to:
- Make PFAS use safer: EPA finalized rules for new PFAS reporting, issued a framework for reviewing PFAS to ensure they are safe, and proposed to eliminate exemptions for new PFAS and to restrict certain legacy PFAS.
- Hold polluters accountable: EPA has proposed to list PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA, the nation’s Superfund law, and anticipates issuing a final rule in early 2024. This action would give the agency the power to improve transparency around PFAS releases, help ensure that polluters pay for treatment and cleanup, and help communities that are facing significant pollution quickly receive effective protections. In the last year, EPA also took important steps to stop PFAS polluters, including adding PFAS as an EPA enforcement and compliance priority from 2024-2027. This rulemaking, however, may also hold wastewater utilities liable for PFAS discharges.
- Identify the scale of exposure: EPA proposed the first national drinking water standard for six PFAS in March 2023. This rule would save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of avoidable illnesses. The Rule went to OMB for review today and EPA expects to finalize the rule in early 2024. Also, to better understand where PFAS exist and how people are being exposed to them, EPA initiated nationwide monitoring for 29 PFAS at more than 10,000 public water systems under the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. Results are posted publicly each quarter through EPA’s website.
- Deploy infrastructure funding to address PFAS in water: Many communities need to install new infrastructure and treatment technologies to address PFAS in drinking water and wastewater. With Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL funding), EPA is providing $10 billion dedicated to removing PFAS and other emerging contaminants – more than half of which is going to marginalized and underserved communities. In 2023, EPA distributed nearly $1 billion through the BIL State Revolving Fund Emerging Contaminants programs and announced the first $2 billion in grant funding to states, Tribes, and territories through the new Small and Disadvantaged Communities Emerging Contaminants grant program.
- Turn off the tap at industrial polluters: EPA has taken several steps to use permitting and regulatory authority of the Clean Water Act to reduce PFAS pollution in our nation’s waters– including specific regulations to limit PFAS discharges from PFAS manufacturers, metal finishers, and landfills.
- Incorporate equity and environmental justice: EPA says that it has worked to ensure that all communities have equitable access to solutions, and to integrate recommendations from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
- Advance the science: EPA has continued to build the scientific foundation on PFAS thorough research and development. The agency is investing in research to fill gaps in our understanding of PFAS, to identify which additional PFAS may pose human health and ecological risks at which exposure levels, and to develop methods to test, measure, remove, and destroy them.
- Listen to communities and incorporate environmental justice: EPA held listening sessions with community members impacted by PFAS in each of its ten Regions, as well as a session specifically designed for Tribal partners. Feedback shared during these sessions, in coordination with recommendations from EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Local Government Advisory Committee, is informing agencywide response efforts and helping to ensure that communities with environmental justice concerns have equitable access to information and solutions.
What will 2024 hold for PFAS?
Looking ahead to 2024, EPA says that it anticipates continuing its 2023 progress with several critical actions, including finalizing national drinking water standards for several PFAS; taking final action to list certain PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA; proposing Effluent Limitation Guidelines for PFAS manufacturers; issuing guidance on destroying and disposing of PFAS; finalizing new methods to monitor for PFAS in a wide range of media; and proposing rules designating certain PFAS as hazardous constituents under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The agency also expects to continue engaging closely with its state partners, who are actively working to address PFAS issues in their communities.