EPA Proposes Designating Certain PFAS Chemicals as Hazardous Substances Under Superfund

Aug. 26, 2022
The proposal would designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA

The U.S. EPA is proposing to designate two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

CERLA is also known as Superfund. The proposal applies to PFOA and PFOS and includes their salts and structural isomers. The proposal is motivated by research that points to PFOA and PFOS as being dangerous to human health and the environment. 

According to EPA, this "would increase transparency around releases of these harmful chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their contamination."

“Communities have suffered far too long from exposure to these forever chemicals. The action announced today will improve transparency and advance EPA’s aggressive efforts to confront this pollution, as outlined in the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in the press release regarding the matter. “Under this proposed rule, EPA will both help protect communities from PFAS pollution and seek to hold polluters accountable for their actions.”  

In the event the ruling is finalized, reporting of PFOA and PFOS releases would occur to support EPA with "improved data and the option to require cleanups and recover cleanup costs to protect public health and encourage better waste management."

Ultimately, this ruling would also assist EPA, state, Tribal nation, and local community understanding of locations of PFOA and PFOS contamination and thus provide more resources to the communities impacted by such pollution. EPA will also conduct outreach to impacted communities, wastewater utilities, businesses, farmers and other parties.

The goal of this ruling is to hold those who have manufactured and released large amounts of PFOA and PFOS accountable, according to EPA.

Under this rule, "releases of PFOA and PFOS that meet or exceed the reportable quantity would have to be reported to the National Response Center, state or Tribal emergency response commissions, and the local or Tribal emergency planning committees. A release of these or any other hazardous substance will not always lead to the need to clean up or add a site to the National Priorities List (NPL), liability or an enforcement action."

EPA would be able to recover cleanup costs from the responsible party or to require said party to conduct the cleanup. Additionally, federal entities that transfer or sell their property must provide a notice about the storage, release, or disposal of PFOA or PFOS on the property and a covenant declaring it has and will continue cleanup efforts, according to EPA.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register will be published in the next several weeks, according to EPA, and thereafter encourages comments for a 60-day comment period. 

"As a subsequent step, EPA anticipates issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking after the close of the comment period on today’s proposal to seek public comment on designating other PFAS chemicals as CERCLA hazardous substances," states the EPA press release.

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Cristina Tuser

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