Advocate for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies to study the health and environmental impacts of PFAS compounds and to work closely with state and local governments throughout the rule-making process.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of toxic chemicals that have been used for various purposes, including commercial, industrial and U.S. military applications. Some common uses include food packaging, nonstick coatings and stain-resistance fabrics, and as an ingredient in fire suppressants used at U.S. military installations, airports and by state and local fire departments. Over the years, several studies have shown that exposure to PFAS above certain levels, particularly Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfate (PFOS), is associated with various adverse health effects. This includes, but is not limited to, certain cancers, suppressed antibody response, reproductive problems and thyroid hormone disruption. PFAS chemicals are highly durable and can persist in the environment and the human body for years if exposed. Detections of PFAS contamination in drinking water and the environment have increased in recent years. PFOA and PFOS have been detected in soil, surface water, groundwater and public water supplies in numerous locations. These detections have been associated primarily with releases from manufacturing and processing facilities, and from U.S. military installations and other facilities that use firefighting foams. As owners, users and regulators of water resources, counties play a key role in addressing the concerns with PFAS exposure.
In February 2021, EPA proposed and began developing the final Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to provide new data on 29 PFAS that are critically needed to improve EPA’s understanding of PFAS impacts on community drinking water. The agency also published a final determination to regulate PFOA and PFOS while also evaluating additional PFAS and considering regulatory actions to groups of PFAS.
In April 2021, EPA took an important step to protect communities from new PFAS entering the market by announcing a policy shift in its expedited review of new PFAS. The agency published an updated toxicity assessment for PFBS. On April 27, 2021, Administrator Regan called for the creation of a new “EPA Council on PFAS” and charge with it building on the agency’s ongoing work to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by these chemicals.
In June 2021, EPA proposed a rule to require all manufacturers, including importers, of PFAS in any year since 2011 to give EPA a wide range of data, including how they use certain PFAS. The agency restarted the process to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances.
In July 2021, EPA released the first set of preliminary data for PFAS ever collected under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The agency collected data on more than 170 PFAS.
In October 2021, EPA announced it is developing a national PFAS testing strategy that intends to use its Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) authorities to require PFAS manufacturers to provide more information on PFAS. The agency published a final human health toxicity assessment for GenX chemicals. The agency also announced important steps toward evaluating the existing data for PFAS under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and strengthening the ability to clean up PFAS contamination across the country through the RCRA corrective action process.
In November 2021, EPA asked the agency’s Science Advisory Board to review four draft scientific documents including recent scientific data and new analyses that indicate negative health effects may occur at a much lower level of exposure to PFOA and PFOS than previously understand and that PFOA is a likely carcinogen.
On July 21, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021 (H.R. 2467), a bill to address PFAS, on a 241-183 vote. The legislation would require EPA to set a health-protective drinking water limit for PFOA and PFOS and designate those chemicals as hazardous under CERCLA for the purposes of Superfund cleanups. The bill would direct the EPA to determine whether PFAS should be designated as toxic pollutants under the Clean Water Act. Additionally, the EPA would be required to issue a national primary drinking water regulation for PFAS that, at a minimum, includes standards for PFOA and PFOS. as well as listing PFOA and PFOS as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. In a win for counties, the bill includes language requiring EPA to consult with local governments while the agency develops rule guidance. The bill would order EPA to establish a grant program to aid communities affected by PFAS and authorize $500 million in grant funding per year for fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The legislation would authorize $1 million for the fiscal year 2022 for household well water testing and $100 million for each fiscal year 2022 through 2026 to test for PFAS in schools.
KEY TALKING POINTS:
- As owners, users and regulators of water resources, counties are directly impacted by the federal policies and funding authorized in the legislation.
- Counties support efforts by EPA and other federal agencies to study the health and environmental impacts of PFAS compounds.
- Additionally, as the administration moves toward potential regulatory action, counties urge the administration to work closely with state and local governments throughout the rule-making process.