EPA pressed to meaningfully address PFAS crisis after new study found 83% of the waters tested across the country were contaminated by dangerous PFAS chemicals
Today, Waterkeeper Alliance sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the agency to take up the recommendations outlined in its unprecedented new analysis on the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in American waterways. This year, Waterkeeper Alliance conducted the most extensive survey of PFAS contamination in U.S. surface waters that has ever been conducted in the country, and found that 83% of the waters tested contained at least one type of PFAS that are widely linked to serious public health and environmental impacts.
The signers, Gloria Reuben, President of Waterkeeper Alliance and Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance, also requested a meeting with Administrator Michael Regan to discuss the troubling results of their organization’s PFAS contamination study, and plans for EPA to further delineate the extent of PFAS contamination across the country and clean it up.
In calling for action by EPA, Waterkeeper Alliance wrote:
“We have been closely following EPA’s actions relating to PFAS pollution since you took the helm as EPA Administrator, including the agency’s October 2021 publication of its PFAS Roadmap, and we want to thank you for prioritizing this vital issue. As noted above, we would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss our recommended next steps and how we hope to partner with EPA to achieve our mutual goals with respect to further delineating the extent of PFAS contamination across the country and cleaning it up.”
The recommendations made by Waterkeeper Alliance include:
- Leverage the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding and implement a coordinated water monitoring program for PFAS with federal, state, and interstate agencies. EPA should include the PFAS contaminants in its National Aquatic Resource Surveys of rivers/streams, lakes, coastal waters, and wetlands and U.S. Geological Survey should include these contaminants in their National Water Quality Assessment Program and in their special studies for states.
- Set new standards under the Clean Water Act for at least nine industry categories that are known to discharge PFAS into the environment.
- Review the sources of PFAS in waterbodies and use that information to set protective limits on the amount of PFAS chemicals that can be released.
- Require EPA to establish water quality criteria for each measurable PFAS and class of PFAS within three years.
- Develop effluent limitations, including industrial pretreatment standards, for measurable PFAS and classes of PFAS.
- Quickly finalize a national primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS that would set enforceable limits and require monitoring of public water supplies, while evaluating additional PFAS and groups of PFA.
- Follow through as expeditiously as possible on the agency’s proposals to designate PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances, and seek public comment on designating other PFAS chemicals as CERCLA hazardous substances.
- Follow through on the agency’s proposal to add four PFAS chemicals – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), and GenX – as RCRA Hazardous Constituents under Appendix VIII.
- Follow through on the agency’s rulemaking effort to clarify in EPA regulations that the RCRA Corrective Action Program has the authority to require investigation and cleanup for wastes that meet the statutory definition of hazardous waste, as defined under RCRA section 1004(5), including emerging PFAS contaminants.
- Follow through on the adoption of water quality criteria for PFAS for aquatic life and human health to help Tribes and states develop standards, write permits, assess cumulative impacts, and act urgently on protective criteria as soon as possible, and no later than the fall of 2024.