USEPA Creates PFAS Council

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they are persistent and resistant to degradation. They have been used in a wide variety of everyday products and are found in detergents, non-stick pans, stain-resistant and waterproof fabrics, fragrances, drugs, disinfectants, pesticides, and fire-fighting foam. PFAS comprise more than 4,700 compounds. Many of them have been identified as potential environmental or public health risks.

In keeping with the Biden administration’s identification of PFAS as a priority, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the creation of a council of senior EPA career officials to strategize the best ways to mitigate and reduce PFAS contamination. The EPA Council on PFAS (“ECP”) will be led by Radhika Fox, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, and Deb Szaro, Acting Regional Administrator, Region 1.

Building on the 2019 EPA PFAS Action Plan, the ECP is directed to take a number of multidisciplinary actions, including the following:

  • Develop “PFAS 2021-2025 – Safeguarding America’s Waters, Air and Land,” a multi-year strategy to deliver critical public health protections to the American public.
  • Continue close interagency coordination on region-specific and cross-media issues to assist states, tribes, and local communities faced with significant and complex PFAS challenges.
  • Work with all national program offices and regions to maximize the impact of the EPA’s funding and financing programs to support cleanup of PFAS pollution, particularly in underserved communities.
  • Expand engagement opportunities with federal, state, and tribal partners to ensure consistent communications, exchange information, and identify collaborative solutions.

The ECP is expected to make initial strategy recommendations to Administrator Regan within 100 days. The announcement follows a recent increase in EPA activity focused on PFAS. In January 2021, EPA made new information available about EPA testing that showed PFAS contamination from fluorinated containers. In March 2021, EPA released additional data confirming that it had detected eight different PFAS from the fluorinated containers, with levels ranging from 20-50 parts per billion.

Both New Jersey and New York have been in the forefront of addressing PFAS. New York established drinking water maximum contaminant levels for two PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS, at ten parts per trillion (ppt), which is one of the strictest standards in the country; launched a statewide investigation of potential sources of PFAS; and, building on EPA’s release of data in January, initiated an investigation of PFAS in consumer products.

New Jersey has established standards for three PFAS chemicals – Perfluorononanoic Acid (PFNA), Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), and Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS). New Jersey set 13 ppt as a maximum contaminant level for PFNA in drinking water and as the permanent specific ground water quality standard for PFNA. In addition, New Jersey added PFNA to the List of Hazardous Substances, N.J.A.C. 7:1E. In 2020, New Jersey established a specific groundwater quality standard for PFOA at 14 ppt and PFOS at 13 ppt and added both compounds to the List of Hazardous Substances.

New Jersey also requires Licensed Site Remediation Professionals to evaluate whether a site undergoing remediation may have manufactured, stored, handled, or used such contaminants and address them during the investigation and remedial action.

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