Find a Course

EPA Outlines Action Plan for PFAS Chemicals

Posted on February 15, 2019 by Anthony Cardno, CHMM and Roger Marks

On February 14 in Philadelphia, US EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a “historic” Action Plan to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water.

By the end of 2019, EPA plans to use its authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act to issue a “regulatory determination,” which may result in new Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOA and PFOS). PFOA and PFOS are two of the most prevalent, and most well-known, fluorocarbon chemicals present in drinking water.  

In addition to starting the process for creating MCLs, EPA plans to list PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances and issue interim groundwater cleanup recommendations for contaminated sites. EPA will also monitor PFAS in nationwide drinking water under the Unregulated Contaminated Monitoring Program and develop new research methods to detect PFAS chemicals in drinking water, groundwater, and soil.  

Read more about EPA’s PFAS action plan here.

EPA has previously identified PFOA and PFOS on the SDWA’s most recent Contaminant Candidate List, the CCL4, released by EPA on November 17, 2016. [81 FR 81099] 

That same year, the EPA announced health advisories for both PFOA and PFOS, set at 70 parts per trillion. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, health advisories are non-regulatory and non-enforceable guidance to states and to public water systems.

What Is an MCL?

An MCL is a standard set by US EPA that indicates the maximum concentration of a contaminant that can be present in drinking water and have that water still be deemed “fit for human consumption” for each contaminant.

See a list of current MCLs enforced by EPA here.

What Criteria Does EPA Use to Create MCLs?

The SDWA sets three criteria for determining if a contaminant should be regulated:
  1. Might the contaminant have an adverse effect on human health?
  2. Is the contaminant known to occur (or is there a substantial likelihood it will occur) in public water systems at a frequency and level of public health concern?
  3. Does regulation of the pollutant present a meaningful opportunity for the reduction of health risks for people serviced by public water systems?
EPA currently feels that perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate meet these criteria, and the Agency is now beginning the process of establishing MCLs. Unlike the previously established health advisories for PFOA and PFOS, the MCLs—once promulgated—will be regulations and thus enforceable.

In Chicago: Complete Environmental Regulations Training, April 11–12

Are you the go-to person for all things EHS at your facility? Join us in Chicago on April 11–12 for the nationally trusted Complete Environmental Regulations Workshop.

Understanding the air, water, and chemical regulations that apply to your facility will help you communicate clearly and confidently within your organization and better defend your business against costly fines, penalties, and future liability. This workshop covers the critical elements of major EPA programs that impact industrial facilities every day.
 
Can’t attend live? Check out the Complete Environmental Regulations Online Course , The online course is packed with training content, tutorials, resources, and FAQs that clarify and simplify the complex, overlapping EPA rules you must know.