Keeping Up with the EPA on PFAS

May 19, 2024

On April 10, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final ruling on the new National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR). Initially proposed in March of 2023, the rule is intended to limit public exposure to harmful “forever chemicals,” known generally as PFAS.

The National Primary Drinking Water Regulation

Foregrounded by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the new NPDWR ruling outlines legal concentration limits for six PFAS contaminants in public drinking water. The specified contaminants are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluoro hexane sulphonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFNA), FRD-903 (HFPO-DA, or Gen-X chemicals). The ruling also extends to blends consisting of two or more of the following contaminants: PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA and PFBS.

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All public water works are mandated to implement water quality monitoring by 2027 to demonstrate compliance with Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs); systems found exceeding MCLs will have until 2029 to achieve regulatory compliance.

Enforcement and CERCLA

PFAS are entirely man-made chemicals typically found in industrial manufacturing settings. While industrial entities may be responsible for their creation, the cost of their removal falls primarily on the general public; a dynamic the EPA is posed to correct. The NPDWR itself does not outline the consequences of non-compliance, but the ruling is still legally enforceable. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) may empower the EPA to focus enforcement and disciplinary actions on significant point source polluters.

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