Read the full article by Sharon Lerner (The Intercept)

“The Environmental Protection Agency has released its plan for tackling widespread contamination by the highly toxic persistent industrial compounds known as PFAS, which have been found in drinking water around the country. The agency’s ‘PFAS Strategic Roadmap‘ is part of an interagency push by the Biden administration to combat the chemicals, which are associated with a range of health problems and last indefinitely in the environment.

‘This comprehensive, national PFAS strategy will deliver protections to people who are hurting by advancing bold and concrete actions that address the full life cycle of these chemicals,’ said EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who appeared in North Carolina, where he previously served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, to launch the plan. ‘Let there be no doubt that EPA is listening, we have your back, and we are laser-focused on protecting people from pollution and holding polluters accountable.’

The EPA document lays out an accelerated timeline for various steps to regulate, remediate, and conduct research on PFAS, a class of chemicals used to make nonstick pansfirefighting foam, and hundreds of other products. The agency committed to designating two of the best known chemicals in the class, PFOA and PFOS, as hazardous under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act by the summer of 2023. By that fall, the agency plans to set enforceable drinking water limits on those same two compounds. The EPA has pledged to finalize a risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS in sludge by the winter of 2024.

But environmental advocates and people living in contaminated communities criticized the plan for containing more promises and planned actions than concrete policies. ‘I first wrote to U.S. EPA March 6, 2001, asking and urging the agency to take action to protect people from PFOA in public drinking water,’ said Robert Bilott, an attorney who represented some 80,000 people whose drinking water was polluted with PFOA from a DuPont plant in West Virginia. ‘It is now 20 years later, and we are still waiting for them to actually do it, as opposed to announcing plans to do it years in the future.’

‘We’ve had two prior action plans, which went nowhere, so it’s frustrating because there’s no actual actions being announced as opposed to plans,’ said Bilott, who noted that the EPA acknowledged that the fulfillment of its commitments is contingent upon appropriations.

How Many Chemicals?

The road map, which was produced by the EPA Council on PFAS created earlier this year, attempts to broaden the agency’s focus on the thousands of chemicals in the class. The document lays out plans to sample for 29 PFAS compounds in water systems in 2024 and 2025. And the agency will soon begin to publish toxicity assessments for seven PFAS compounds, including GenX, which was introduced as a substitute for PFOA.

The EPA also plans to subdivide the thousands of PFAS compounds based on their toxicity, chemical structure, and the techniques used to remove them from the environment, according to the document. The agency will then identify the gaps in research about these compounds and, in some cases, require the companies that make the chemicals to conduct and fund the research themselves.

‘This is a big deal,’ said Betsy Southerland, a scientist who worked at the EPA for 33 years. ‘Finally, this is going to be used to get the industry people rather than the federal government and academics to have to fill in all the critical missing data.’ The agency could then use the information to regulate all the chemicals within the category. But the process of restricting or banning uses for a single category would take at least seven years, even if it begins immediately, Southerland said.”…