Today, Waterkeeper Alliance submitted a letter—signed by 63 local Waterkeeper groups and 47 other conservation organizations—to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of a petition to include per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides, and nearly 1,000 other chemicals in its Clean Water Act (CWA) toxic pollutants list.
Last updated in 1976, the list does not include thousands of chemicals and substances that have been introduced to the market and are regularly discharged into U.S. waterways.
These dangerous, long-lasting toxic pollutants contaminate our country’s waters, are linked to public health conditions, accumulate in the food chain, poison wildlife, and lead to environmental injustice for countless communities. The groups, who collectively represent millions of people across the country, contend that a failure to update the toxic pollutant list undermines tools in the CWA that reduce harmful pollution and protect waterways.
“Decades of federal inaction, coupled with recent and pending court decisions, have led to a sustained and alarming assault on clean water and the environment,” said Kelly Hunter Foster, Senior Attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. “As EPA gains some ground on PFAS regulation, there is a growing risk of losing important legal remedies that force industries to control and clean-up their toxic discharges. The addition of PFAS and other compounds to the toxic pollutants list is essential to shoring up essential protections for U.S. waterways and the American people.”
Below is an excerpt from the letter:
“Indeed, such change is essential for EPA to meaningfully stop new environmental injustices and address current environmental injustices. For decades, the EPA stood almost motionless as forever chemicals permeated the environment, and in doing so has exponentially worsened the challenges of removing them from the aquatic environment. By acting now, the EPA will be taking an important step towards stopping this preventable cycle from continuing to occur in the future.”
Updating the toxic pollutants list—which EPA admits is both important and out-of-date—will unlock key environmental safeguards under the CWA, including industrial sector guidelines, sewage collection chemical standards, and water quality criteria. This action is particularly critical in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Sackett vs. EPA decision last year and upcoming Chevron Doctrine cases in the coming weeks.
The Sackett decision dealt a harsh blow to the federal government’s ability to protect waterways under the CWA and the upcoming cases could significantly weaken or potentially overturn the Chevron Doctrine, which permits federal agencies like EPA to interpret statutes and make sound policy decisions based on their expertise.