EPA announces PFAS environmental action plan
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced EPA’s Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan. It responds to extensive public interest and input the agency has received over the past year and represents the first time EPA has built a multi-media, multi-program, national communication and research plan to address an emerging environmental challenge like PFAS.
Concern about PFAS is central to the continuing controversy over the use of fluorinated chemicals in firefighting foam.
EPA’s Action Plan identifies both short-term solutions for addressing these chemicals and long-term strategies that will help provide the tools and technologies states, tribes, and local communities need to provide clean and safe drinking water to their residents and to address PFAS at the source—even before it gets into the water.
“The PFAS Action Plan is the most comprehensive cross-agency plan to address an emerging chemical of concern ever undertaken by EPA,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “For 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 level process, that will help affected communities better monitor, detect, and address PFAS.”
The Action Plan describes long- and short-term actions that the EPA is taking including:
- • Drinking water: EPA is moving forward with the maximum contaminant level (MCL) process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS—two of the most well-known and prevalent PFAS chemicals. By the end of this year, EPA will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in the Safe Drinking Water Act process for establishing an MCL.
- • Clean up: EPA has already begun the regulatory development process for listing PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances and will issue interim groundwater cleanup recommendations for sites contaminated with PFOA and PFOS. This important work will provide additional tools to help states and communities address existing contamination and enhance the ability to hold responsible parties accountable.
- • Enforcement: EPA will use available enforcement tools to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assist states in enforcement activities.
- • Monitoring: EPA will propose to include PFAS in nationwide drinking water monitoring under the next Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Program. The agency will also consider PFAS chemicals for listing in the Toxics Release Inventory to help the agency identify where these chemicals are being released.
- • Research: EPA will develop new analytical methods so that more PFAS chemicals can be detected in drinking water, in soil, and in groundwater. These efforts will improve our ability to monitor and assess potential risks. EPA’s research efforts also include developing new technologies and treatment options to remove PFAS from drinking water at contaminated sites.
- • Risk Communications: EPA will work across the agency—and the federal government—to develop a PFAS risk communication toolbox that includes materials that states, tribes, and local partners can use to effectively communicate with the public.
- • Together, these efforts will help EPA and its partners identify and better understand PFAS contaminants generally, clean up current PFAS contamination, prevent future contamination, and effectively communicate risk with the public. To implement the Action Plan, EPA will continue to work in close coordination with multiple entities, including other federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, water utilities, industry, and the public.
In May 2018, EPA convened a two-day National Leadership Summit on PFAS in Washington, D.C. that brought together more than 200 federal, state, and local leaders from across the country to discuss steps to address PFAS.
Following the Summit, the agency hosted a series of visits during the summer of 2018 in communities directly impacted by PFAS. EPA interacted with more than 1,000 people during community engagement events in Exeter, New Hampshire, Horsham, Pennsylvania, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Leavenworth, Kansas as well as through a roundtable in Kalamazoo, Michigan and events with tribal representatives in Spokane, Washington.
The Action Plan was developed based on feedback from these events in addition to information received from approximately 120,000 comments submitted to the public docket.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) made the following comments after the announcement of EPA's comprehensive PFAS Action Plan:
"ACC looks forward to reviewing the PFAS management plan. We continue to support strong national leadership in addressing PFAS and firmly believe that EPA is best positioned to provide the public with a comprehensive strategy informed by a full understanding of the safety and benefits of different PFAS chemistries.
"ACC supports inclusion of initiatives in EPA's plan that can be implemented quickly that are based on the best-available science. It is also essential that EPA communicate effectively to the public to build confidence, transparency, and credibility in the actions it is taking.
"A science-based management plan will help states by providing access to a broader range of resources; ensuring uniform standards across the country to enable straightforward compliance; and minimizing the burden on states that are already short on resources. We look forward to reviewing the plan and providing EPA with comments."