Water Utilities Brace for Imminent EPA Proposal on PFAS in Water
Drinking water systems are preparing for the possibility that the EPA will try to codify its 2022 health advisories suggesting no amount of PFAS substances are safe, water attorneys say.
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue its proposed PFAS drinking water standards by March 3, according to the EPA’s latest regulatory agenda. That date is exactly two years after the agency published its 2021 decision to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The EPA, which did not respond to a request for comment, said in a news release this week that the draft of the proposed rule is undergoing interagency review, and the proposal will be released in the “coming weeks.” The agency said it expects to finalize the PFAS drinking water limits by the end of the year.
“Whatever they come up with will have a huge impact on the next several years for drinking water systems planning their budgeting,” and litigation will likely follow, said Tom Lee, a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP in San Francisco.
The EPA in 2022 issued interim health advisories that said almost no levels of two PFAS substances in drinking water are safe. The question now is whether the agency’s proposed limits for PFAS in drinking water will reflect the non-binding advisory.
The advisory set safe PFAS levels “so low that most if not all public water systems can’t even detect it,” said John Kindschuh, an attorney at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in St. Louis who works with Lee on PFAS regulatory issues.
The interim advisory levels of 0.004 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and 0.02 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) dramatically tightened EPA’s 2016 advisory of 70 ppt for either compound or a combination of both.
The EPA is “telegraphing that that the maximum contaminant levels will be incredibly low values,” Lee said.
Bloomberg Law, 17-02-23