Read the full article by Steven G. Barringer & Katie P. Reed

“On Feb. 20, 2020, roughly one year after announcing its comprehensive per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) action plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a preliminary regulatory determination under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for the two most-studied of the chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This is the initial step in the process of promulgating a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation and imposing an enforceable ‘maximum contaminant level’ (MCL) for the substances – just two of the more than 7,000 so-called ‘forever chemicals’ that are under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and the public. EPA set nonbinding health advisories of 70 parts per trillion for the two chemicals in 2016, and issued interim recommendations for cleanup of ground water contaminated with PFOA and PFOS in December 2019, but Congress and states continue to pressure EPA to develop enforceable drinking water standards for PFOS and PFOA. Meanwhile, states with impacted drinking water supplies are not waiting for EPA; a number have promulgated their own standards, including Vermont and New Jersey, both of which adopted levels much lower than EPA’s recommendations.

EPA has established a 60-day public comment period on the preliminary regulatory determination, to begin running upon publication in the Federal Register. EPA will consider public input in deciding whether to move forward with promulgating enforceable MCLs. EPA is required by the SDWA to consider three criteria when deciding if a federal standard is needed: (1) if the substances have adverse health effects; (2) if the substances are found in public water systems with a frequency at levels of concern; and (3) if there is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk through a national drinking water standard.

If a final determination is made that a federal drinking water standard is warranted, EPA must conduct the underlying scientific work to support the standard, and propose and finalize the actual mandatory limit, which will once again go through the rulemaking process. Accordingly, final enforceable limits will not be in place for at least five years, and probably longer. If adopted, the standards will likely place the burden of compliance and treatment on public water systems, meaning hikes in water bills for the general public.

EPA sent the draft regulatory determination to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Dec. 3, 2019, where it was under review for over two months. House Democrats passed language in January 2020 as part of a larger PFAS package that would require EPA to promulgate drinking water standards…”