EPA Misses Mark with New PFAS Drinking Water Limits

New EPA drinking water limits issued March 14 are raising concerns at NMPF that they may be arbitrarily restrictive and not based on the best science available.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new limits, known as Maximum Contaminant Limits (MCLs), cover six PFAS chemicals, which environmental advocates say increase health risks. EPA set the limit for PFOA and PFOS, the focus of much of EPA’s attention on the issue, at 4 parts-per-trillion (PPT) individually. It’s using health hazard index to set limits for 4 other PFAS chemicals.

The limits are below international standards, including those set by the World Health Organization. As well as all state-imposed limits for PFAS ( per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water. Unlike the previous EPA Health Hazard Advisory, which originally set the advisable limit at 70ppt, these new proposed limits are enforceable regulations. The proposed limits will not apply to private well water.

The new limits, if finalized, will require thousands of drinking water utilities to spend significant amount of money to upgrade their water filtration systems to remove all detectable PFAS. Water in many areas of the country is already very expensive, and it will get even more expensive with this regulation. In addition to raising drinking water costs, the change also will increase food costs, as the food processing industry uses significant amounts of water to make food and to clean and sanitize food facilities.

NMPF also is concerned that the low limits on drinking water will impact potential limits in food, either in a regulation or in public perception. Thus far, FDA has declined to set a food limit and generally does not feel that trace levels of PFAS in human food are a human health concern, with rare exceptions.

While everyone should have an ample supply of clean water, the fact is many drinking water systems are contaminated with a variety of chemicals and it is economically impossible to get public drinking water to be 100% contaminant free. NMPF has cautioned EPA to be careful and follow the science on the regulation of all things PFAS for years.

The comment period is open until April 24. NMPF will once again file comments to EPA advising it to follow the science and be consistent with the global approach to regulating PFAS chemicals.

EPA Releases Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15; Announces CAFO Study

A new EPA plan to study and develop PFAS pollution limits and other measures is underway, NMPF was notified on Jan. 20, before the agency released its multifaceted Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15.

The plan lays out how the agency will develop technology-based pollution limits and conduct studies on wastewater discharges from industrial and other sources. Specifically, the plan focuses on evaluating nutrient and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) discharges.

The plan includes conducting a new study on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), examining the extent to which CAFOs discharges from production and land application areas reach waterways that fall under the Waters of the U.S. rule. The study will take years to complete; in addition to it EPA wants to gather information on new technologies and practices aimed to reduce discharges coming from the production and land application areas.

EPA will also look at the economic vitality of the regulated community as any future changes must be economically feasible. This information will then be used to determine if a revision to the effluent and pretreatment standards is warranted.

NMPF will work with EPA and monitor this issue closely.

NMPF Concerned with EPA’s PFAS Roadmap

NMPF is concerned over the potential treatment of farmland under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to confront PFAS contamination nationwide. The strategy, announced Oct. 18, will engage stakeholders as multiple rulemakings related to its plan get underway.

EPA asserts the Roadmap is the result of a thorough analysis conducted by the EPA Council on PFAS that Administrator Michael S. Regan established in April.

The plan is centered on three guiding strategies: increasing investments in research, leveraging authorities to act now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment and accelerating the cleanup of PFAS contamination. NMPF has long been an advocate for research in these areas, as so much is unknown about these chemicals and rulemaking should not be made on speculation.

Roadmap key actions include:

  • Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
  • A hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
  • Timelines for action—whether it is data collection or rulemaking—on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories.
  • A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
  • A final toxicity assessment for GenXwhich can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
  • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.

The Roadmap was well received by many environmental groups and some members of Congress. While NMPF has sympathy with some of its goals and provisions, other areas raise serious concerns: In particular, the application of CERCLA to contaminated farmland, to do so can cause that farmland to be a SuperFund site.

EPA will conduct rulemaking under this Roadmap for the next several years. NMPF will continue to engage with EPA during its various and numerous rulemakings related to the plan