What’s in the Latest EPA PFAS Strategic Roadmap Update?
On Oct. 18, 2021, the EPA released the next step in its PFAS Action Plan, the “PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024.” The latest update includes PFOS and PFOA in the contaminant candidate list, which has implications for remediation requirements for managing drinking water, wastewater and air quality.
This article outlines the history of the PFAS Action Plan and the updates made or expected in each management category and expected timing of some regulatory actions.
PFAS Action Plan History and Contributors
The PFAS Action Plan was first released in 2019 and has been updated in 2020 and again recently in 2021 with increasing restrictions on contaminants. In 2019, there was no maximum contaminant level (MCL) for drinking water, but in 2020, the health advisory limit was adjusted to 70 ppt (parts per trillion) for drinking water for PFOA and PFOS. This year, PFOA and PFOS are included in the contaminant candidate list.
Contributors to the PFAS Action Plan include the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Office of Water, Office of Land and Emergency Management, Office of Air and Radiation and Office of Research and Development. All offices have laws in place that contribute to PFAS management, except for the Office of Research and Development, which conducts technical research and develops research methodology to support agency policymaking.
5. Office of Research and Development: Supports agency policymaking
Summary of Roadmap Updates
- Under CERCLA, EPA is proposing to designate PFOA and PFOS compounds as hazardous substances.
- EPA will request input regarding designation of other compounds, such as precursors to PFAS and other subgroups, as hazardous substances.
- Also proposed is the requirement for facilities to report PFAS releases that meet or exceed the limits assigned to these substances.
- The proposed rules are expected to be available for public comment in Spring 2022, and final rules are expected in Summer 2023.
- Although EPA currently maintains recommended levels for PFAS in drinking water, no enforceable MCLs have been established for any PFAS at the federal level.
- The Roadmap moves to propose a rule that establishes enforceable limits on PFOA and PFOS in drinking water by Fall 2022 and finalize that rule by Fall 2023.
- EPA will require continued testing for PFAS under a federal regulatory testing program for public water systems that may lead to drinking water standards for other PFAS in the future.
- The Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) providing for drinking water systems to monitor for 29 PFAS compounds nationwide is scheduled to be finalized in the Fall 2021. Under the UCMR5, water systems serving 3,300 or more people, and 800 representative public water systems serving fewer than 3,300, will test for 29 PFAS compounds in drinking water for a 12-month period from January 2023 through December 2025.
- Presently, no federal standards exist, and only a few states, such as Michigan and Minnesota, have begun developing water quality criteria for PFAS.
- EPA will establish new water quality criteria for PFOA and PFOS, including:
- Aquatic life criteria (Winter 2022)
- Human health criteria (Fall 2024), which are used to develop water quality standards and limits in wastewater discharge permits
- EPA will address PFAS discharges through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by requiring certain dischargers to:
- Monitor for PFAS
- Implement Best Management Practices (BMPs)
- Develop new state-level guidance recommending PFAS monitoring in state-issued NPDES permits
- EPA will finalize a method for measuring PFAS compounds in other environmental media such as soils and wastewater by Fall 2022.
- EPA will conduct further studies of PFAS air emissions, which may lead to listing of some PFAS as Hazardous Air Pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
- EPA will develop and issue final monitoring approaches for stack emissions and ambient air and develop a better understanding of the fate and transport of PFAS air emissions.
- EPA intends to evaluate mitigation options by Fall 2022.
- EPA is proposing to publish toxicity assessments evaluating the health effects of GenX by Fall 2021 and publish a health advisory for GenX by Spring 2022. GenX is a well-known short chain replacement compound for common PFAS used in industry and manufacturing.
- EPA will develop and validate methods to detect and measure PFAS in the environment and develop methods for detecting and measuring specific PFAS and total PFAS.
- EPA will develop methodologies for identifying PFAS sources, transport and exposure pathways, and characterizing how exposure to PFAS may contribute to cumulative impacts on communities.
- EPA will further evaluate and develop technologies for reducing PFAS in the environment to inform decisions on drinking water and wastewater treatment, contaminated site cleanup and remediation, air emission controls and end-of-life materials management.
EPA Presentation: “PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024”