U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand commends the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the improvements made to the agency’s draft Strategic Roadmap to confront PFAS contamination nationwide. This week’s announcement from EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan comes a few weeks after Senator Gillibrand led the charge pushing the EPA to expand and strengthen regulatory efforts to address industrial PFAS discharges and calling for a plan that is as ambitious as her Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act of 2021, which is similar to legislation that has twice passed the House. The EPA’s final Roadmap is an important step for mitigating the risk of PFAS; however, passage of Gillibrand’s comprehensive legislation is still necessary to protect communities from these forever chemicals.
“We need ambitious and urgent action to tackle PFAS head on and keep our communities safe from these toxic chemicals,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am grateful the EPA’s final PFAS plan included my recommendations and now addresses more industries emitting PFAS into the air and water. I look forward to continuing my work with the Biden administration to set strict deadlines to achieve these goals and will continue fighting to pass my Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act in order to address this issue and hold all polluters accountable.”
In September, the EPA released the Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15) outlining its draft roadmap to regulate some industrial discharges of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. In response, Senator Gillibrand led 17 of her Senate colleagues in a letter to EPA Administrator Regan calling on the agency to strengthen its plan and commit to creating a roadmap that expands the industry category list from two to the nine outlined in her bill and in similar legislation passed by the House, and to set deadlines for when the agency plans to set these standards. The letter also called for the PFAS Roadmap to include an immediate designation for PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances, accelerate efforts to strengthen drinking water and groundwater cleanup standards, address ongoing industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water, and ensure that PFAS waste is properly disposed of.
Today, following Gillibrand’s request, the EPA released its finalized strategic Roadmap and announced a new national testing strategy that requires PFAS manufacturers to provide the agency with toxicity data and information on categories of PFAS chemicals. The finalized plan addresses several requests in Gillibrand’s letter, including the following:
- Undertakes rulemaking to restrict PFAS discharges from the organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers (OCPSF), metal finishing, and electroplating industries.
- Initiates monitoring and data reviews of six other industry categories to inform decision-making about future regulatory action on: pulp, paper, and paperboard; textile mills; leather tanning and finishing; paint formulating; electrical and electronic components; and plastics molding and forming.
- Sets deadlines for proposed rulemakings to potentially establish standards/decide whether to establish standards for the 9 priority industry categories.
- Develops a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances, to be ready for public comment by Spring 2022.
- Accelerates efforts to set drinking water and groundwater cleanup standards by undertaking research on the effectiveness of different approaches for removing PFAS from water sources.
- Addresses ongoing industrial releases of PFAS into the air and water by imposing limitations on new and existing discharges of PFAS.
- Makes sure PFAS wastes are properly disposed of by undertaking research to identify/develop techniques to permanently dispose of or destroy PFAS.
To develop these standards, otherwise known as effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs), the EPA first gathers information on industry practices, characteristics of discharges, technologies or practices used to prevent or treat the discharge, and costs. The EPA identifies the best available technology that is economically achievable for that industry and sets regulatory requirements based on the performance of that technology. The PFAS Roadmap will fill in the data gaps of these six other industry categories and get the ball rolling so the agency can proceed on potentially establishing standards for them.
Gillibrand has a longstanding record of strengthening transparency and regulatory standards for PFAS emissions. Her Clean Water Standards for PFAS Act of 2021 would regulate PFAS chemicals under the Clean Water Act by requiring the creation of new effluent limitations guidelines and pretreatment standards for sources that discharge PFAS chemicals into our waterways, and authorize federal funding to assist Publicly Owned Treatment Works with the implementation of those guidelines and standards. In June, Gillibrand successfully implemented her provision requiring the EPA to identify and publicly share the sources of PFAS emissions. It required that 172 PFAS be added to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a centralized database that requires polluters to publicly report when chemicals are released into the environment. Gillibrand also successfully secured $10 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure package to address PFAS, including funding for a Gillibrand provision that was included in the Senate-passed Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 (DWWIA) earlier this year.