The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take multiple steps to respond to growing concern over the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water supplies across the country, including looking at the possibility of setting legally enforceable limits for PFOA and PFOS exposure, Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday. Pruitt spoke at the outset of the agency’s National Leadership Summit on PFAS, a category of manmade chemicals responsible for contaminating drinking water systems or groundwater supplies at more than 100 active and closed installations.
The first component of the agency’s action plan will be to initiate steps under the Safe Drinking Water Act to evaluate the need for maximum contaminant levels for PFOA and PFOS. “It’s something that has been talked about for a number of years. The process needs to begin,” Pruitt told the invitation-only audience of about 200 people, including representatives from ADC.
The agency also is developing groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS at contaminated sites across the country, a task scheduled to be completed by the fall. Under the third element, EPA will begin the necessary steps to consider designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under one of two sections of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). “That will contribute to steps EPA can take “to get accountability under our CERCLA statute,” he said.
Following the two-day summit, EPA officials plan to visit communities grappling with PFAS contamination. Based on this week’s event, community engagement and public comment, the agency will develop a national PFAS management plan for release by the fall, Pruitt said.
“This is an historical day … because we are coming together as state and federal partners, local communities recognizing that this should be and must be a national priority, and that we are going to be taking concrete steps as an agency to address that along with you at the state and local level,” he said. “I will work with you to make sure that we take action, and not just raise awareness.”
The event, held at EPA’s headquarters, drew national news coverage after security guards blocked reporters from multiple outlets from attending in the morning, while journalists who were allowed to observe Pruitt’s opening remarks were forced to leave afterward. EPA later allowed all reporters to cover the afternoon sessions, reported Politico.
Photo courtesy of EPA