The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a much-anticipated draft document to address groundwater contaminated with PFOA and/or PFOS.
According to EPA, the guidance is based on EPA’s current understanding of PFAS toxicity and is intended to provide clear and consistent guidance for cleanup programs. Specifically, the guidance provides interim recommendations for addressing groundwater contaminated with PFOA and/or PFOS at sites being evaluated and addressed under federal cleanup programs, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA” or “Superfund”) and corrective action under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). The information and recommendations may also be used by state, tribal, or other regulatory authorities (e.g., federal facility cleanup programs, approved state RCRA corrective action programs).
The guidance recommends the following:
- Screening sites using a screening level set to a Hazard Quotient of 0.1 for PFOA or PFOS individually, which is currently 40 ng/L or parts per trillion (ppt);
- Using the PFOA and PFOS HAs of 70 ppt as the PRG for groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water, where no state or tribal MCL or other applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (“ARARs”) exist; and
- In situations where groundwater is being used for drinking water, EPA expects that responsible parties will address levels of PFOA and/or PFOS over 70 ppt.
This guidance does not declare PFAS chemicals to be hazardous substances under Superfund and it does not explicitly require clean up at contaminated industrial sites, landfills, or military facilities. Rather, it simply recommends cleanup when chemicals are found in groundwater being used for drinking at concentrations of 70 parts per trillion or higher.
While some have commended EPA for take the first step in developing PFAS guidelines, many have criticized the guidance for failing to adequately protect communities from PFAS contamination. Accordingly, we expect to see many advocacy groups urging EPA to adopt more stringent standards and an “emergency action level,” at which the EPA would commit to step in and remove the presence of the chemicals to protect public health.
The public will have an opportunity to submit their comments on the guidance for 45 days from April 25, 2019 to June 10, 2019. For more information, visit https://www.epa.gov/pfas. To submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2019-0229, visit https://www.regulations.gov.