Environmental group places high hopes in EPA’s next PFAS ‘roadmap’

  • Zoe Read / Why?

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce in the coming weeks a plan to combat contamination with PFAS, the class of toxic chemicals that have been detected in water sources nationwide.

Known as permanent chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances have been used for decades in household products such as non-stick cookware (Teflon), flame retardant fabrics and some food packaging. PFAS are also present in fire-fighting foams used at airports and military bases.

In March, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced that about one-third of 114 water systems tested for PFAS chemicals contained the substances over 17 months of sampling. Some of the highest concentrations of PFAS were found in Bucks, Montgomery, and Berks counties. And in July, the state of Delaware reached a landmark $ 50 million agreement with three companies – DuPont, Chemours and Corteva – over water pollution and related contamination from PFAS, which have been found in drinking water wells, including wells near Dover Air Force. Based.

Four New Jersey cities also sued the companies for selling products containing PFAS, knowing they were harmful.

The Environmental Working Group estimates that more than 200 million Americans drink water contaminated with PFAS. President Joe Biden is committed to addressing issues related to PFAS, which can contribute to cancer and reproductive issues.

During a virtual press briefing on Thursday, the advocacy organization said it hoped the EPA’s next plan would include major steps, such as setting standards for drinking water and cleaning up facilities. underground waters ; restrict industrial releases of PFAS to air and water; designating chemicals as hazardous under the law, which would initiate the clean-up process, especially at Ministry of Defense contaminated sites (nearly 400 facilities are contaminated with PFAS); end the unnecessary use of PFAS, especially in fire fighting foams and household products; and ensure proper disposal of PFAS wastes.

“Communities have waited over 20 years for the EPA to act,” said Scott Faber of the environmental task force. “EPA first became aware of the risks posed by PFAS at least as early as 1998. And that is why we are so happy to finally see a roadmap that treats this emergency as an emergency.

Yet the group is also concerned that the EPA is not as proactive as it could be, noting that many industrial releases of PFAS were not included in the agency’s latest plan, released on September 8, to treat industrial waste within the framework of Clean Water. Act. The plan, Program Plan 15 of the Draft Effluent Guidelines, identifies opportunities to protect public health and the environment through the regulation of sewage pollution.

The agency determined that the revised effluent limitation guidelines and pre-treatment standards are warranted for organic chemicals, plastics and man-made fibers to address PFAS releases from facilities manufacturing PFAS; metal finishing, to treat PFAS releases from chromium electroplating facilities; and meat and poultry products, to combat nutrient releases from these companies.

“This plan would leave thousands of businesses that could reject PFASs, such as paper mills, tanneries, paint companies, electrical component manufacturers and plastic molders, out of reach,” said Melanie Benesh, legislative counsel for the Environmental working group.

The organization estimates that 30,000 companies could dump PFAS waste.

The group also said the FAA is seeking to delay efforts to allow airports to replace fire-fighting foam made with PFAS with alternatives without PFAS. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to authorize the use of alternatives to aqueous film-forming foams containing PFAS by October 4 of this year.

Conservationists say they fear the FAA may not meet that deadline.

Other efforts are being made to combat PFAS. The EPA under the Biden administration proposed to expand surveillance and develop better methods of detecting PFAS, providing funding to local communities, filling gaps in the law, and requiring data on PFAS. polluters.

The US House Budget Reconciliation Bill includes $ 80 million to help local fire departments replace foam and firefighting equipment made with PFAS. The Fast Action Act, which sets timelines for EPA action, was passed by the House earlier this year.

The National Defense Authorization Act versions include reforms to the PFAS, and the House version includes funding to clean up contaminated sites.

Faber said he hopes those actions will help pave the way for the EPA’s next announcement.

“This is a really critical moment, as it will set the stage for the next three years and beyond,” he said.

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