EPA proposes first limits to PFAS in wastewater


Rules would set limits in organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers industries and for metal finishing operations

(Reuters) – The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced plans for regulation that would for the first time set limits on levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that certain manufacturers and users of the chemical compound discharge in wastewater.

The EPA said it will start preliminary work on a pollution rule for how much PFAS can be discharged into sewage treatment systems and surface waters from “facilities manufacturing PFAS” that are part of the organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers industries. It will also work on a PFAS pollution rule for industries that perform metal-finishing operations.

There are currently no federal regulatory standards for PFAS discharges by these industries, said Albert Lin, a professor of law at the University of California Davis School of Law.

With the proposed rules, “for the first time, EPA is committing to limit PFAS in wastewater discharges,” Radhika Fox, the agency’s assistant administrator for water, said in a statement. The regulations would ultimately protect drinking water supplies, she added.

PFAS, nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily, have been associated with various illnesses including kidney cancer. They have been used for decades in household products such as nonstick cookware, stain- and water-resistant textiles, rugs, food packaging, photo imaging, and in industrial products. Many states have already outlawed their use in food packaging.

Lin, who specializes in toxic torts and environmental law, said establishing the regulatory standards would likely take years, and called the upcoming process “potentially arduous.”

Ralph DeMeo, a shareholder at Guilday Law, said the development was “a very big deal” because of the ubiquity of wastewater treatment facilities that the regulations would touch upon.

The EPA says its surface water discharge regulations for the organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers industries cover more than 1,000 chemical facilities producing over 25,000 products, from benzene to rayon and polyester.

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~sReuters, 10 September 2021