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Jul. 25, 2022

Inside EPA’s Roadmap on Regulating PFAS

Toxic “forever chemicals” remain laxly regulated

Nine months after issuing a roadmap for curtailing PFAS contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has missed significant deadlines. PFAS are a class of thousands of manufactured chemical compounds that can persist in human bodies and in the environment for decades.

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EPA actions on PFAS are Failing , Missed Deadline or Status Unknown

Mounting research links PFAS chemicals to a wide range of health problems. Studies of the most widely used PFAS chemicals show links to cancer, as well as endocrine disruption.

The EPA must move faster and expand regulations to stop the approval of new PFAS chemicals.

Key commitments are missing from EPA’s PFAS roadmap, including:

  1. Ending approval of new PFAS chemicals through the pre-manufacture notice (PMN) process and regulatory exemptions.
  2. Adopting a moratorium on incineration, at least until EPA has determined if there are safe protocols for incineration and if so, until EPA has codified those protocols into binding regulations.
  3. Regulating emissions of PFAS into air.
  4. Regulating discharges of PFAS into water from all industrial sources.
  5. Regulating PFAS as a class in all of EPA’s work.

Earthjustice is working to end PFAS pollution and remove toxic chemicals from our daily lives by fighting in court, working with Congress, and working with communities across the country.

See a summary and current status of EPA’s PFAS roadmap:

Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 (Jump to definitions of acronyms)
Action Identified in PFAS Roadmap Action Details Proposed Roadmap Timeline Status Update EPA Office
Publish national PFAS testing strategy
  • Prioritize PFAS for testing potential human health and ecological effects.
  • Use Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) section 4 authority to require PFAS manufacturers to conduct and fund tests.
Fall 2021
(Publish)

End of 2021
(Issue first round test orders)
EPA published a testing strategy, though its approach to prioritizing PFAS for testing has been controversial.

Missed Deadline
The first round of test orders was issued in Jun. 2022, ~6 months later than proposed.
OCSPP
Ensure a robust review process for new PFAS
  • Generally, deny pending and future so-called “low volume exemption” (“LVE”) submissions to get new PFAS in the market.
  • Moving forward, apply a rigorous pre-manufacturing notice (“PMN”) review.
Ongoing (since Apr. 2021) Failing

EPA continues to approve PFAS through the “low volume exemption,” despite saying it expected to deny LVE applications.

At least four have been granted in the last year.
OCSPP
Review previous approval decisions on PFAS
  • Re-examine PFAS reviewed and approved through EPA’s New Chemicals program, which evaluates chemicals before they enter commerce.
  • Revisit past regulatory decisions and address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Issue TSCA section 5(e) orders, which imposes more rigorous safety requirements, for existing PFAS with recently filed significant new use notices.
  • Improve tracking and enforcement for new chemical consent orders and significant new use rules (“SNURs”).
Efforts ongoing Status Unknown OCSPP
Close the door on abandoned PFAS and uses
  • Use “significant new use” authority on inactive PFAS so industry must submit notice of its intent to use the chemical to EPA, and obtain approval, before it can resume use of that chemical.
Summer 2022 Missed Deadline

Rule will be proposed in Sept. 2022 and finalized in Jun. 2023, according to the Spring 2022 Unified Regulatory Agenda.
OCSPP
Enhance PFAS reporting under Toxics Release Inventory (“TRI”)
  • Propose a rulemaking to categorize PFAS on TRI as “Chemicals of Special Concern” and remove small concentrations, or de minimis, loopholes for all “Chemicals of Special Concern.”
  • Announce additional rulemaking in 2022 to add more PFAS to TRI.
Spring 2022 Missed Deadline

Rule will be proposed in Sept. 2022, according to the Spring 2022 Unified Regulatory Agenda.
OCSPP
Finalize new PFAS reporting under TSCA section 8
  • Consider public comments on and finalize proposed rule to gather data, such as information on uses, production volumes, disposal, exposures, and hazards, on any PFAS manufactured since 2011.
Jan. 1, 2023
(Publish final rule)
Rule will be finalized in Dec. 2022, according to the Spring 2022 Unified Regulatory Agenda. OCSPP
Undertake nationwide monitoring for PFAS in drinking water
  • Finalize the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which requires large water systems to test drinking water for 29 PFAS from Jan. 2023 to Dec. 2025.
Fall 2021
(Publish final rule)
Missed Deadline

EPA finalized the rule in Dec. 2021.
OW
Establish a national primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS
  • Develop proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for PFOS and PFOA.
  • Evaluate additional PFAS.
Fall 2022
(Propose rule)

Fall 2023
(Publish final rule)
Missed Deadline

Rule will be proposed in Dec. 2022 and finalized in Dec. 2023, according to the Spring 2022 Unified Regulatory Agenda
OW
Publish the final toxicity assessment for GenX and five additional PFAS
  • Complete toxicity assessments, which help EPA to better understand human health and environmental harms, for GenX and additional PFAS.
Ongoing
(since Fall 2021)
EPA finalized the toxicity assessment for GenX in Jan. 2022, detailing potential adverse health effects and establishing toxicity values.

Failing
None of the other five toxicity assessments have been finalized.
OW
Publish health advisories for GenX and PFBS
  • Establish drinking water health advisories, based on final toxicity assessments.
Spring 2022 On Jun. 15, 2022, EPA issued final health advisories for GenX chemicals and PFBS. OW
Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) program
  • Includes specific actions / rulemakings for nine industrial categories in proposed PFAS Action Act of 2021 (and other industrial categories, such as landfills).
End of 2024 Status Unknown OW
Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) program Includes specific actions / rulemakings for nine industrial categories in proposed PFAS Action Act of 2021 (and other industrial categories, such as landfills).

  • Enact rulemaking to restrict PFAS discharges from categories where EPA has data (e.g., organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers, metal finishing, electroplating).
Summer 2023
(Propose rule for organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers)

Summer 2024
(Propose rule for metal finishing and electroplating)
Status Unknown OW
Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multi-faceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) program Includes specific actions / rulemakings for nine industrial categories in proposed PFAS Action Act of 2021 (and other industrial categories, such as landfills).

  • Monitor industrial categories where phaseout of PFAS is projected by 2024 (e.g., pulp, paper, paperboard, airports).
Fall 2022
(Finalize ELG Plan 15 to address results of monitoring and future regulatory action)
Status Unknown OW
Leverage National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting to reduce PFAS discharges to waterways Leverage federally issued NPDES permits to reduce PFAS discharges:

  • Propose monitoring requirements for facilities where PFAS are expected to be present in wastewater and stormwater.
  • Propose that NPDES permits contain conditions based on product elimination and substitution, require best management practices to address PFAS-containing foams for stormwater permits, require enhanced public notification and engagement, and strengthen pretreatment programs.
Winter 2022 EPA released a memo in Apr. 2022 detailing how it will require monitoring for PFAS in federally-issued permits. OW
Leverage National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting to reduce PFAS discharges to waterways Issue new guidance to state permitting authorities to address PFAS in NPDES permits:

  • Recommend that state-issued permits not requiring monitoring for PFAS use EPA’s recently published robust analytical method.
- Failing

EPA has not yet issued guidance to state permit writers.
OW
Publish multi-lab validated analytical method for 40 PFAS
  • Publish method online and start proposed rulemaking to promulgate method under Clean Water Act.
Fall 2022
(Publish method online)
In Sept. 2021, EPA proposed Draft Method 1633, which is a validated analytical method to test for 40 PFAS.

It has not finalized the method.
OW
Publish final recommended ambient water quality criteria for PFAS
  • Publish recommended aquatic life criteria for PFOA and PFOS, and develop benchmarks for other PFAS that don’t have sufficient data to define a recommended aquatic life criteria value.
  • Develop human health criteria for PFOA and PFOS, taking drinking water and fish consumption into account
  • Support Tribes in developing water quality standards.
Winter 2022
(Publish for aquatic life)

Fall 2024
(Publish for human health)
In May 2022, EPA published draft recommended aquatic life criteria for PFOA and PFOS. OW
Finalize risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids (sewage sludge)
  • Finalize a risk assessment to determine the potential harm associated with human exposure to PFOA and PFOS in biosolids.
  • Based on the risk assessment, decide whether to regulate PFOA and PFOS in biosolids.
Winter 2024 Status Unknown OW
Propose to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA
  • Develop rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA, which would require facilities to report on releases above an assigned threshold.
Spring 2022
(Propose rule)

Summer 2023
(Publish final rule)
Missed Deadline

EPA sent a proposed rule to OMB in Jan. 2022.

Rule is scheduled to be finalized in late Aug. 2023.
OLEM
Issue advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) to seek public input on various PFAS under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”)
  • Develop ANPRM on whether to designate other PFAS — in addition to PFOA and PFOS — as hazardous substances under CERCLA.
Spring 2022 Missed Deadline

ANPRM will be published in Nov. 2022, according to the Spring 2022 Unified Regulatory Agenda.
OLEM
Issue updated guidance on destroying and disposing of certain PFAS and PFAS-containing materials
  • Update guidelines, which will address public comments and newly published research.
  • Provide additional research data that will become available starting 2022.
Fall 2023 (Update guidance)

Dec. 2023 (Statutory deadline for update)
Status Unknown OLEM
Develop and validate methods to detect and measure PFAS in the environment
  • Draft total adsorbable fluorine method for wastewater for potential lab validation.
Fall 2021 Status Unknown

Draft method was published in Aug. 2021.

The status of the final method is unknown.
ORD
Advance science to assess human health and environmental risks from PFAS
  • Complete draft Integrated Risk Information System (“IRIS”) assessments for PFHxS, PFHxA, PFNA, and PFDA for public comments and peer review.
Spring – Fall 2022 A draft IRIS assessment for PFHxA was released for public comment in Feb. 2022.

None of the other draft assessments have been published for public comment.
ORD
Advance science to assess human health and environmental risks from PFAS
  • Complete and publish final IRIS assessment for PFBA.
Fall 2022 A peer review meeting for this assessment was held in late Feb. 2022. ORD
Evaluate and develop technologies for reducing PFAS in the environment
  • Identify initial PFAS categories for removal tech.
Summer 2022 Status Unknown ORD
Issue annual public report on progress towards PFAS commitments Beginning Winter 2022
Status Unknown Cross-Program