Thursday, February 14, 2019

EPA will look at regulating PFAS chemicals

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 12:36 PM

click to enlarge Doug Benevento, left, and Peter Wright, right, discuss EPA's plans to address PFAS problem.
  • Doug Benevento, left, and Peter Wright, right, discuss EPA's plans to address PFAS problem.

On Feb. 14, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a conference in the city of Fountain to announce plans to address toxic chemicals that have been found in the area’s drinking water, and in the water of communities across the nation.

The chemicals at issue: PFASs, man-made contaminants found to have originated primarily, in the Fountain area, from firefighting foam used by the Air Force Academy for training purposes.

The EPA’s plan outlines steps to develop new analytical tools for four key areas: human health and ecological effects, significant sources of these chemicals, cost and effectiveness of treatment methods, and how best to support stakeholders. However, this plan does not include a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for drinking water, though citizens have been calling for an MCL since the EPA first toured affected areas in 2018.

Representatives from the EPA, regional administrator Doug Benevento and senior counsel to the administrator Peter Wright, said they were bound by the processes put in place by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and had to undergo certain legal steps to declare an MCL and recommend treatment, such as gathering data and undergoing a period of public comment.

The EPA has started this process to set an MCL for two types of PFASs (PFOA and PFOS). By the end of 2019, they hope to propose a regulatory determination for establishing an MCL for both — it may take longer to actually establish that MCL, but they do not have a solid timeframe.

They also announced that the EPA has already issued direct enforcement orders in eight instances of contamination, and have begun steps toward regulating PFASs as dangerous chemicals. They plan to issue groundwater cleanup recommendations soon, but offered no solid timeline.

(You can watch the full presentation on the EPA for Region 8’s Facebook page. Dough Benevento takes the podium for opening remarks at 39 minutes in.)

If all of this strikes you as less than a firm plan, you're not alone. The Environmental Working Group released a statement that read in part:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called PFAS management plan would only make the nationwide crisis of pervasive pollution from fluorinated compounds worse, EWG said.

The plan from the Trump EPA, released today, would not stop the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, end the use of PFAS chemicals in everyday products, alert Americans to the risk of PFAS pollution or clean up contaminated drinking water supplies for an estimated 110 million Americans.

Instead, it perpetuates the agency’s record of foot-dragging on establishing meaningful protections against a class of chemicals linked to cancer, thyroid disease and weakened childhood immunity, among other serious health harms. 

The release goes on to lay out what the EWG believes the EPA ought to do to address PFASs and protect the public. Read the full release here.

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