EPA Proposes New Standard to Regulate PFAS in Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a standard to regulate the cumulative mixture of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in drinking water.[0] This group of man-made chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” are used in a variety of everyday products, from dental floss to cookware to firefighting foams and linger in the environment and the human body for decades, causing serious health problems.[1] The proposal would regulate the cumulative mixture of PFAS chemicals, including PFHxS, PFBS, PFNA, and GenX, to keep them below a level considered dangerous to human health.

The EPA's proposal will also limit any mixture containing one or more of PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and/or GenX Chemicals. Water systems would use a hazard index calculation, defined in the proposed rule, to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk.[2] The rule is intended to set drinking water standards for all PFAS and supersede any state limits that clock in above 4 parts per trillion.[3]

The agency is also publishing a direct final rule to extend the deadline for plants to opt-in to the 2028 early retirement provision promulgated in the 2020 regulation. This action would help protect our nation’s vital water resources that support safe drinking water, agriculture, industry, recreation activities, and thriving communities.[4] This action would be especially beneficial to low-income and minority communities which suffer the most from the pollution caused by coal-fired power plants.[4]

The EPA had intended to propose this rule by the end of last year, yet it was still undergoing interagency review.[5] The proposed rule is now available for public comment.[0] The EPA will contemplate the remarks and declare a definitive ruling on the regulation, predicted to occur later this year.[0]

The EPA has proposed a rule that will implement stricter discharge limits for wastewater from flue-gas desulphurization, bottom ash transport water, and combustion residual leachate in order to reach a zero discharge rate from these waste streams.[6] Facilities that are still in operation as of the current requirements have the option to avoid abiding by the proposed rule if they shut down before 2028.[7] The proposed rule is aimed at motivating the industry to move away from coal-fired steam plants.[7]

0. “EPA proposes first standards to make drinking water safer from ‘forever chemicals'” East Idaho News, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.eastidahonews.com/2023/03/epa-proposes-first-standards-to-make-drinking-water-safer-from-forever-chemicals/

1. “US to limit PFAS ‘forever chemicals' in drinking water” BBC, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64955159

2. “EPA recommends PFAS drinking water limits lower than Wisconsin rules” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2023/03/14/epa-recommends-pfas-drinking-water-limits-lower-than-wisconsin-rules/69977215007

3. “EPA proposes first-ever limits on PFAS in drinking water” Grist, 14 Mar. 2023, https://grist.org/politics/epa-proposes-first-ever-limits-on-pfas-in-drinking-water/

4. “Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines – 2023 Proposed Rule | US EPA” U.S. EPA.gov, 8 Mar. 2023, https://www.epa.gov/eg/steam-electric-power-generating-effluent-guidelines-2023-proposed-rule

5. “EPA set to limit PFAS in drinking water – so what does that mean for Minnesota?” FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.fox9.com/news/epa-set-to-limit-pfas-in-drinking-water-so-what-does-that-mean-for-minnesota

6. “EPA Takes Bold Steps To Curb Toxic Wastewater From Coal-Fired Plants” OilPrice.com, 9 Mar. 2023, https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/EPA-Takes-Bold-Steps-To-Curb-Toxic-Wastewater-From-Coal-Fired-Plants.html

7. “EPA Proposes Strict Clean Water Act Treatment Technology for Coal-Fired Power Plants” JD Supra, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/epa-proposes-strict-clean-water-act-8814288/