EPA moves forward with PFAS roadmap

Inside the EPA reports today on the concerns of water suppliers who must remove PFAS from drinking water.

Among other things, the removal of PFAS results in residue, or what you and I might call sludge, that won’t go where it went because of the PFAS in the sludge. See, for example, the report on Maine’s new biosolids ban earlier this week.

All alternatives are expensive. Then as Inside the EPA reports, members of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) are turning to the EPA to tell them what they are going to be required to do to treat PFAS in their water, and the residues from that treatment, and who is going to pay for that.

Although it has been a year and a half since the EPA released its ambitious and far-reaching plan to combat PFAS, the EPA is still working on answers to these and many other complicated questions regarding the continued presence of PFASs. PFAS in commerce and the unavoidable releases of these PFAS into the environment.

I don’t mean that the EPA doesn’t work as fast as it can. And it’s no surprise that it’s taking the EPA longer to get to the first destinations on its PFAS roadmap than it would have hoped.

But, in the meantime, individual states continue to act. Just two examples are Maine’s biosolids ban and a Massachusetts legislative task force report yesterday outlining dozens of recommendations for what Massachusetts should do about PFAS. See here.

For decades, federal law has provided a uniform answer to questions about the quality of drinking water, the remediation of hazardous substances in the environment, and the disposal of hazardous waste. Eventually, we will have uniform answers to these questions for at least many PFASs. In the meantime, the lack of uniform answers will continue to mean more confusion and more litigation.

Ryan Albert, chief of the standards branch at the EPA’s office of drinking water, told a panel of drinking water advisers that the office of water works “very closely” with the Office of Land & Emergency Management (OLEM), which is developing a rule to regulate the two most studied PFAS – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) – as Superfund hazardous substances. “[W]We are very actively examining the implications of this [EPA’s] decision [on a Superfund hazardous substance designation] finally is. . . in terms of impact on drinking water treatment capacity and waste management. So we will look at that in terms of the standards that we set, as well as any costs that we look at as part of that regulatory action,” he added.

©1994-2022 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 111

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