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Something's in the Water

EPA issues ominous advisory on PFAS traces

In ominous news Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—microscopic traces of manmade chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products.

The EPA also announced that it is "inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion – the first of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding – to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities."

PFAS have been a primary target of Michael Regan's approach in his first year as EPA administrator. The branch also said additions to his "Roadmap" (outlined at the bottom of this article) designed to deal with PFAS chemicals in water will be released shortly in 2022.

“People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long. That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge,” said Regan in a statement Tuesday. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are also investing $1 billion to reduce PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.”

“Today’s actions highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “EPA is also demonstrating its commitment to harmonize policies that strengthen public health protections with infrastructure funding to help communities—especially disadvantaged communities—deliver safe water.

PFAS Strategic Roadmap

Today’s actions achieve another key commitment as the agency implements the October 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap. Under the Roadmap, EPA is working across the agency to protect the public from the health impacts of PFAS. EPA has undertaken a number of actions to deliver progress on PFAS including:

  • Issuing the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to improve EPA’s understanding of the frequency that 29 PFAS are found in the nation’s drinking water systems and at what levels.

  • Issuing the first Toxic Substances Control Act PFAS test order under the National PFAS Testing Strategy;

  • Adding five PFAS to EPA’s contaminated site cleanup tables;

  • Publishing draft aquatic life water quality criteria for PFOA and PFOS;

  • Issuing a memo to proactively address PFAS in Clean Water Act permitting; and

  • Publishing a new draft total adsorbable fluorine wastewater method.

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