After a months-long process that began with EPA’s National Leadership Summit on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in May of last year, the agency released its PFAS Action Plan February 14. On that date, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the release at a press conference, touting that “[t]he PFAS Action Plan is the most comprehensive cross-agency plan to address an emerging chemical of concern ever undertaken by EPA.”
Wheeler continued, “[f]or the first time in Agency history, we utilized all of our program offices to construct an all-encompassing plan to help states and local communities address PFAS and protect our nation’s drinking water. We are moving forward with several important actions, including the maximum contaminant [MCL] level process, that will help affected communities better monitor, detect, and address PFAS.”
Perhaps most noteworthy of Wheeler’s remarks during the press conference was in response to a reporter’s question as to whether the agency might elect not to set an MCL for PFOA and PFOS. In response, Wheeler said that while he could not predetermine the outcome of a notice and comment period, he has “every intention of setting an MCL.”
AMWA sent a memo to members and subscribers that same day alerting them to the news and key elements of the plan. The association also reiterated its support of the process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act for regulating contaminants in a statement published on its website. The statement encourages the use of sound science and continued transparency as EPA considers its regulatory determination. The statement also supports EPA’s plan to develop interim groundwater cleanup recommendations so polluters take responsibility for contamination of water sources with PFAS chemicals.
In the action plan, EPA outlines both short-term and long-term actions that the agency will deploy to address PFAS. Long-term actions are defined by the action plan as those initiatives or regulatory actions that are expected to take more than two years, though some of these actions may result in intermediate steps or products. Short-term actions are those that the agency deems can be completed in the next two years.
Short-term action items related to PFAS in drinking water and the anticipated timelines are listed below:
- Propose a national drinking water regulatory determination for PFOA and PFOS (2019);
- List PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances (started in 2018 and ongoing);
- Guidance for groundwater cleanup at contaminated sites (2019);
- Finalize toxicity assessments for PFBS and GenX (2019);
- Draft toxicity assessments for five additional PFAS (2020);
- Develop additional analytical methods to test for PFAS in drinking water (2019);
- Identify new/additional treatment and remediation options to address PFAS (2019);
- Develop communication materials to be used to inform public on PFAS concerns (2019).
Long-term action items related to PFAS in drinking water include:
- Determining if available data and research support the development of ambient water quality criteria for human health for PFAS under the Clean Water Act (2021);
- Hold responsible parties accountable for PFAS releases into the environment (start in 2019);
- Characterizing potential health impacts from a broader set of PFAS (ongoing);
- Develop more drinking water occurrence data through the unregulated contaminant monitoring rule (2020).