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Trump EPA Continues to Aggressively Address PFAS on the Federal, State, and Local Level

Building on the assistance provided to more than 30 states, Trump Administration continues its commitment to supporting state, tribal, and local communities in addressing PFAS

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WASHINGTON (July 28, 2020) — Aggressively addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) continues to be an active and ongoing priority for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In July alone, EPA has made significant progress implementing the PFAS Action Plan —the most comprehensive cross-agency plan ever to address an emerging chemical of concern. Together, these efforts are helping EPA, states, tribes, and local communities across the country target PFAS reductions and protect public health.

“With federal technical assistance efforts underway across the country, the Trump Administration is bringing much needed support to state, tribal, and local governments as part of the agency’s unprecedented efforts under the PFAS Action Plan,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These partnerships allow for collaboration, encourage cutting edge research, and information sharing—ensuring that our joint efforts are effective and protective of public health.”

EPA Moves Forward on New PFAS Policies

On July 27, EPA transmitted two new PFAS proposals to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review.

First, EPA submitted the Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of PFAS and Materials Containing PFAS. The guidance would provide information on technologies that may be feasible and appropriate for the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. It would also identify ongoing research and development activities related to destruction and disposal technologies, which may inform future guidance. Yesterday’s action is the first step toward EPA fulfilling its FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) obligation to publish interim guidance on the destruction and disposal of PFAS within one year.

Second, EPA transmitted the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5 (UCMR 5) proposal to OMB for interagency review. Consistent with EPA’s commitment in the PFAS Action Plan and the requirements of the FY 2020 NDAA, EPA anticipates proposing nationwide drinking water monitoring for PFAS under UCMR 5 utilizing new methods that can detect PFAS that could not be detected before as the new methods detect more PFAS chemicals at lower concentrations than previously possible.

EPA Publishes Action that Strengthens PFAS Regulations

Yesterday, EPA’s final Significant New Use Rule for long-chain PFAS published in the Federal Register. This final rule strengthens the regulation of PFAS by requiring notice and EPA review before the use of long-chain PFAS that have been phased out in the United States could begin again. Additionally, products containing certain long-chain PFAS used in a surface coating and carpets containing perfluoroalkyl sulfonate chemical substances can no longer be imported into the United States without EPA review.

EPA Collaborates with Federal Partners on PFAS Research

Also yesterday, EPA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to coordinate a workshop to review federal PFAS research efforts and help identify possible research gaps. This collaborative workshop will ensure PFAS research across the federal government is properly coordinated, complementary, and avoids unnecessary duplication. Click here to access EPA’s PFAS research page and here for the status of specific PFAS research projects.

EPA Provides Help Where It Is Needed

Just as important as the progress on PFAS at the federal level, EPA has formed partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities across the country. These joint projects allow EPA to take the knowledge of its world class scientists and apply it in a collaborative fashion where it counts most.

In July, EPA Region 5 presented results from EPA’s analyses of PFAS relating to chrome electroplating operations to more than 500 participants on a public webinar hosted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The data reports EPA provided to Michigan represent just 2 of 27 recent data reports EPA’s Office of Research & Development has delivered to states across the country, providing the results of analyses of PFAS in water, soil, sediment, air emissions, vegetation, and other media. In all, these 27 data reports provide results on just under 1,000 samples collected in conjunction with states and analyzed by EPA.

Other examples of that technical assistance to states and localities include:

     · In conjunction with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), EPA provided analyses of PFAS in air emissions, char, and dispersants at an industrial site, along with analyses of PFAS in water (surface/ground) and soil collected in proximity to this site. NHDES used the results to inform air permitting requirements for the site.

     · At the request of West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), EPA scientists analyzed PFAS samples collected during air emission testing at an industrial facility near Parkersburg. The results helped demonstrate the effectiveness of emissions controls for GenX and other legacy PFCAs and allowed the WVDEP to make the appropriate regulatory decisions.

EPA Improves Available Tools for States, Tribes, and Communities to Address PFAS

On July 15, EPA added new treatment options for four new PFAS compounds and 20 new scientific references to the Drinking Water Treatability Database, increasing the agency’s depth of knowledge on these emerging chemicals of concern. The update serves as an important tool for states, tribes, and communities across the country who can now use these new technologies to better manage PFAS in drinking water and protect public health.

On July 21, EPA publicly released updates to the CompTox Chemical Dashboard, including new data and predictive models for PFAS that will help prioritize PFAS for further testing, help inform categorization efforts, and ultimately help the agency determine the true risk of potential exposure to these substances. The Dashboard is a one-stop-shop for information on not just PFAS chemicals, but also hundreds of thousands of other chemicals. 

EPA Continues Innovative Approaches to Studying PFAS

On July 1, EPA’s PFAS Innovative Treatment Team completed a Memorandum of Understanding with a U.S.-based company specializing in disposal of biosolids, green waste, and biomass and plans to conduct field research with them this summer. The PFAS Innovative Treatment Team continues to line up field and laboratory research projects for the remainder of the summer to study ways of destroying PFAS and has met with several groups to discuss conducting field sampling at aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) incineration facilities.

Background on the PFAS Action Plan

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, facilities using PFAS in production of other products, airports, and military installations are some of the contributors of PFAS releases into the air, soil, and water. Due to their widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. There is evidence that continued exposure above specific levels to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects.

As part of EPA’s aggressive efforts to address these risks, the agency issued the PFAS Action Plan in February 2019. The Action Plan is the agency’s first multi-media, multi-program, national research, management, and risk communication plan to address a challenge like PFAS. The plan responds to the extensive public input the agency received during the PFAS National Leadership Summit, multiple community engagements and through the public docket. The PFAS Action Plan outlines the processes and tools EPA is using to develop to assess the PFAS risk and assist states, tribes and communities in addressing their unique situations.