EPA proposes to designate PFAS as ‘hazardous’ under Superfund law
The Environmental Protection Agency in August proposed to designate two of the most widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as “Superfund.”
“This rulemaking would increase transparency around releases of these harmful chemicals and help to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their contamination,” EPA said in a news release.
“Communities have suffered far too long from exposure to these forever chemicals. The action announced today will improve transparency and advance EPA’s aggressive efforts to confront this pollution, as outlined in the agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Under this proposed rule, EPA will both help protect communities from PFAS pollution and seek to hold polluters accountable for their actions.”
EPA has not yet published the rule in the Federal Register, but the pre-publication version is available.
“Maine has been at the forefront of the PFAS crisis, and while we’re only at the beginning stages of understanding its scope, it’s been clear we urgently need to address the nationwide contamination,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a member of the House Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee and the House Agriculture Committee, who has previously expressed concern about the impact of PFAS on the saleability of Maine’s agricultural products.
“These PFAS chemicals are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, posing serious health risks to all Americans. After years of pushing for federal action, I’m thrilled to see the EPA is finally taking steps to clean up contaminated sites and hold polluters accountable,” Pingree added.
“PFAS has impacted not only the environment, it has also impacted production agriculture in areas where water contamination or land applications of contaminated materials have taken place. While state agriculture agencies have safeguarded the food supply by removing known contaminated products from the food supply, we are only beginning to understand the extent of PFAS contamination. By designating PFAS as a hazardous chemical, we as a nation begin the process of identifying the impacts and initiating the cleanup process,” said New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte, chair of the EPA Local Government Advisory Committee Health Communities Workgroup.
“For decades, polluters dumped toxic PFOA and PFOS into scores of communities across the country with impunity. Today’s proposal will give the EPA and those communities critical new tools to finally hold those polluters accountable and force them to clean up their mess,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.
The National PFAS Contamination Coalition, which is composed of more than 30 communities impacted by PFAS contamination from 17 states, praised the Biden administration for its actions.
The coalition said, “By taking this step, the following will occur:
▪ “Industrial sites with PFOS/PFOA contamination can be prioritized by the EPA for cleanup and remediation under Superfund Law.
▪ “Cost of cleanup will be the responsibility will be shifted to the polluter, and not local communities and taxpayers.
▪ “Hazardous substance designation will help to hold the Department of Defense accountable for decades of releases of PFOA and PFOS into the environment and surrounding communities.”
Laurene Allen of Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water in Merrimack, N.H., said: “A hazardous substance designation for PFOA will give us the right to insist on cleanup of a site where an EPA-identified polluter continues to contaminate our environment. In Merrimack, N.H., site investigation data at Saint Gobain Performance Plastics shows high levels of PFOA and other PFAS in soil, groundwater, stormwater runoff and drains, and outfall to a nearby brook and the Merrimack River. As we work to remediate our drinking water supplies, PFAS contamination of our environment continues.”
Linda Robles of Mothers Safe Air Safe Water Force in Tucson, Ariz., said: “PFAS contamination in the Tucson area is a community-wide problem, predominantly impacting Latino neighborhoods located near military bases. These communities are at a higher risk of developing very serious and irreversible health effects. For decades, the Tucson south-side residents have incurred higher rates of cancer and other related diseases from the historical environmental injustices inflicted on people of color and low wealth populations. By designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA, the inequitable community impacts of PFAS, along race and class lines will begin to be addressed.”
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