Earlier this month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a proposed rule to designate two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), their salts and their structural isomers, as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund.
If finalized, this designation would have a number of substantial impacts to reducing human exposure such as facilitating cleanup of sites contaminated with PFOA or PFOS and requiring any person in charge of a vessel or facility report releases of PFOA and PFOS of one pound or more within a 24-hour period.
PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS, are human-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties, including their resistance to water, grease, and stains. PFAS have been used in products such as food packaging, water repellant clothing, and certain firefighting foams.
What makes PFOA and PFOS hazardous?
PFAS generally, and PFOA and PFOS specifically, are sometimes referred to as “forever” chemicals because their strong carbon-fluorine bonds cause PFOA and PFOS to be extremely resistant to degradation in the environment, meaning they can persist for long periods of time.
In June the EPA released interim health advisories for PFOA and PFOS based on new epidemiological evidence supporting exposure levels that can lead to adverse human health effects.
Are PFAS found in drinking water?
Domestic production and import of PFOA has been phased out in the United States by the companies participating in the 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program. PFAS found in drinking water generally come from a contamination associated with a specific facility (e.g., manufacturer, landfill, wastewater treatment plant, firefighter training facility). Currently there are no federal regulations on maximum contaminant levels (MCL) of PFAS in drinking water, although some states have taken regulatory action to put advisories in place (Indiana has not).
For private well owners concerned about PFAS, water wells can still provide safe water because effective residential-scale PFAS treatment technologies are commercially available.
Regardless of the proposed rule, businesses included in the categories below should take note to monitor any release of PFAS to keep our drinking water clean and safe.
|NAICS code||List of potentially affected U.S. industrial entities|
|332813||Chrome electroplating, anodizing, and etching services.|
|325510||Coatings, paints, and varnish manufacturers.|
|325998||Firefighting foam manufacturers.|
|922160||Municipal fire departments and firefighting training centers, including Federal agencies that use, trained with, and tested firefighting foams.|
|322121 and 322130||Paper mills.|
|325320||Pesticides and Insecticides.|
|324||Petroleum and coal product manufacturing.|
|324110 and 424710||Petroleum refineries and terminals.|
|352992||Photographic film manufacturers.|
|325612||Polish, wax, and cleaning product manufacturers.|
|323111 and 325910||Printing facilities where inks are used in photolithography.|
|313210, 313220, 313230, 313240, and 313320||Textile mills (textiles and upholstery).|
|562||Waste management and remediation services.|
|221320||Wastewater treatment plants.|
The National Groundwater Association has some great resources for private well owners and other information about PFAS and drinking water.
Additionally, the EPA has a strategic roadmap for addressing PFAS.
For more information about the proposed rule, see the Federal Register 87 FR 54415.