Federal and Local Action Continue on PFAS

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved one step closer last week to regulating two PFAS substances under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Last week, the agency announced a proposed regulatory determination for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water – the two most well-known and studied PFAS chemicals.

The proposed regulatory determination marks a key milestone in EPA’s efforts under the PFAS Action Plan to help communities address PFAS substances nationwide. The action, however, is the first step in a years-long regulatory process of setting a mandatory drinking water limit.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to first propose and finalize a rule determining that a chemical warrants a drinking water limit before it can propose and finalize a National Primary Drinking Water Standard.

In the proposal, EPA is seeking information and data on other PFAS substances, as well as soliciting comments on potential monitoring requirements and regulatory approaches that the agency is considering for PFAS chemicals.

EPA will seek comment on these preliminary determinations for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2019-0583).

This action comes as the House passed comprehensive legislation to address PFAS contamination last month. The legislation would require EPA to develop a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS within two years of enactment, among other things.

Local Leaders Convene to Discuss PFAS Concerns

NLC is building on the work done last year to adopt a resolution calling for the federal government to take additional actions to address PFAS contamination. On February 7, NLC partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to host a summit convening elected officials, city staff, water utility leaders and state league directors to explore the use of scientific information on drinking water safety in local decision making, with particular focus on PFAS and other emerging contaminants.

Participants discussed their experience grappling with these issues, the extent to which local policymakers have access to scientific information to inform their decision making, and what approaches and resources, if any, could help make such information more accessible and usable.

Throughout the course of the discussion, participants shared stories and examples from their communities. The challenges communities are facing varied widely, underscoring the ubiquity and complexity of water quality issues, as well as the complex intersection between this issue and a community’s economic, infrastructure and political context.

Participants also heard from a series of scientific experts who provided an overview of the science related to drinking water safety, PFAS, and other emerging contaminants. The panel of experts covered important topics such as the health risks associated with PFAS, current treatment and remediation approaches and new treatment solutions on the horizon, and strategies for monitoring risk and communication risk to communities.

Want to learn more? At NLC’s upcoming Congressional City Conference, local leaders will hear from key administration officials on actions the federal government is taking to address PFAS contamination in drinking water.

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About the Author: Carolyn Berndt is the legislative director for sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.