The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) latest regulatory agenda indicates that the agency will shortly propose to regulate Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
PFAS are included in the group of "emerging contaminants" that EPA is potentially regulating. PFAS is an acronym for the scientific name describing a family of 5,000 man-made chemicals that don't easily break down, which is why they have the nickname of "forever chemicals." Hundreds of products used by consumers everyday are made with PFAS. PFAS build up in our bodies, are very persistent in the environment and are extremely difficult and expensive to remediate once in soil or drinking water. Small doses of some of the PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases.
Given the foregoing, EPA and state agencies have been concerned about the relative lack of regulation of PFAS. This new proposal will limit the amount of PFAS allowed in drinking water systems, and will likely build upon EPA's interim health advisories. The proposal will first be issued in draft and EPA expects to finalize the rule this year.
This rule will have a significant impact on drinking water systems and may portend upcoming regulation of PFAS that will have a broader impact on industry, and property and business owners.
While industry is raising concerns with the very low levels in EPA's recent health advisories for PFAS, today there is a state-by-state patchwork of PFAS regulation with no national standards. This presents industry with different and inconsistent requirements depending on where the facility is located. So while industry is advocating for a national standard they are concerned with what they see as potentially very costly and unattainable standards.