U.S. EPA outlines 5-part PFAS action plan

In an announcement that acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler called historic, the U.S. EPA today outlined its plan to address contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) threatening drinking water resources across the country.

Feb 14th, 2019
Perfluorodecyl-chain
Perfluorodecyl-chain

In an announcement that acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler called historic, the U.S. EPA today outlined its plan to address contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) threatening drinking water resources across the country.

PFAS comprise hundreds of substances, including (but not limited to) perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). These chemicals have been around for more than sixty years, used in myriad consumer and industrial products such as non-stick coatings and fire-fighting foams. There is evidence indicating that exposure to these chemicals can lead to adverse health effects, including interfering with reproduction and hormone levels, adversely affecting learning and behavior, and increasing the risk of certain cancers.

After an extensive outreach effort, including a National Leadership Summit held in May 2018 as well as subsequent community listening sessions, the U.S. EPA has developed a five-point action plan to address the growing concern over PFAS across the nation. The five components are:

1. The U.S. EPA intends to move forward with an MCL process for PFOA and PFOS, and expects to propose a regulatory determination by the end of year.

2. The agency will continue its enforcement actions and cleanup activities, and will continue to provide technical assistance to communities as needed. The agency has also started the regulatory process for listing PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances (which will enable communities to take advantage of certain funding vehicles for clean up efforts).

3. EPA will expand its focus on monitoring and understanding of PFAS in the environment, and intends to add PFAS to the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). The agency will also consider PFAS for inclusion in the toxic release inventory.

4. The agency will expand its research efforts, developing new analytical tools for testing PFAS. It will seek to better understand the human health effects of PFAS, the transport pathways, the remediation costs and effectiveness of clean up techniques, and how to better support stakeholders and communities in their PFAS programs.

5. The EPA plans to develop a comprehensive risk communication toolbox to help stakeholders and municipalities communicate with their communities about PFAS.

Acting Administrator Wheeler emphasized that the agency has every intention of setting an MCL for PFOA and PFOS, but that in the meantime, the agency will continue its enforcement of the current health advisory limit of 70 ppt. EPA has executed eight direct PFAS enforcement actions to date.

To watch the press conference that aired on February 14, 2019, please visit: https://youtu.be/6u20N1fGNnU?t=936

To access the EPA's per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) plan, visit: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-02/documents/pfas_action_plan_021319_508compliant_1.pdf

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