Action Needed

Urge the U.S. Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies to study the health and environmental impacts of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds and to work closely with state and local governments on any regulatory or legislative actions related to PFAS.


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 fire suppressants used at U.S. military installations, airports and state and local fire departments.

Over the years, several studies have shown that exposure to PFAS above certain levels, particularly perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfate (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.

Congressional and Administrative Action

EPA has taken several steps to address PFAS, including expanding nationwide monitoring of PFAS in drinking water, increasing data collection and initiating a national PFAS testing strategy under its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) authorities. Much of EPA’s work is guided by the PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which was released in October 2021, and sets key deadlines for the agency to take specific actions and implement new policies to address PFAS.

Steps taken by EPA most relevant to counties include:

  • Also in June 2022, EPA issued final drinking water health advisories for two other types of PFAS –perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (GenX Chemicals). The advisory level for PFBS is set at 2,000 ppt and at 10ppt for GenX Chemicals, both of which are above EPA’s level of detection.
  • In September 2022, EPA published a proposed rule to designate two types of per- (perfluorooctanoic acid(PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)) and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as Superfund. In June 2023, EPA announced that the final CERCLA rule has been delayed from August 2023 to Spring 2024.
  • This proposed rule could place an economic burden on counties, as PFAS is often suspended in the environment and leads to accumulation in water systems and waste facilities. Given the ubiquity of PFOA and PFOS, county governments, water utilities and landfills could be subject to the rule’s reporting and financial liability requirements.
  • In March 2023, EPA announced a new proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The proposed rule would establish both enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs)for the six types of PFAS. Public water systems, including those owned or operated by counties and serving county residents, would be required to comply with the MCLs. A final rule is expected in Spring 2024.
  • In June 2023, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) published draft legislation on PFAS. NACo submitted comments to EPW advocating for a provision to ensure that local governments are explicitly recognized as passive receivers of PFAS and are provided an exemption under CERCLA. If local governments are not granted such an exemption, the cleanup costs associated with CERCLA would likely be much higher and therefore passed on to our residents. We welcome the opportunity to work with EPW staff as they continue to develop this legislation.

Key Talking Points

  • As owners, users and regulators of water resources, counties are directly impacted by federal regulation and legislation regarding PFAS.
  • Counties support efforts by EPA and other federal agencies to study the health and environmental impact of PFAS compounds.
  • As EPA moves takes regulatory action, counties urge the administration to work closely with state and local governments throughout the process.
  • As Congress considers legislation to address PFAS, counties urge policymakers to consult with state and local governments throughout the process.

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