On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took bold action to address polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Specifically, EPA:

 

  • reproposed the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) to collect new data on PFAS in drinking water and
  • reissued final regulatory determinations for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

 

These actions were taken after a thorough review of the Agency’s regulatory approach that was done in response to recent Biden-Harris Administration Executive Orders and Directives. In a February 22, 2021, Press Release related to these actions, EPA indicated they would “build on them [the actions] using a strong foundation of science while working to harmonize multiple authorities to address the impacts of PFAS on public health and the environment”. This appears to signal the beginning of the end of separate state-level regulation of these substances in drinking water and development of a unified, national strategy and standards.

 

The Press Release goes on to say that “With the final Regulatory Determinations for PFOA and PFOS, EPA will move forward to implement the national primary drinking water regulation development process for these two PFAS. The Regulatory Determinations also outline avenues that the Agency is considering to further evaluate additional PFAS chemicals and provide flexibility for the Agency to consider groups of PFAS as supported by the best available science.” EPA also notes that data collected under the proposed fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5), which was published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2021, is critically needed to improve EPA’s understanding of the frequency that 29 PFAS are found in the nation’s drinking water systems and at what levels. EPA has developed a Fact Sheet on the UCMR5 that is accessible HERE. The proposal includes monitoring for six PFAS substances that were originally part of UCMR3, but now will use new analytical methods that support lower reporting levels. Lithium monitoring is also included in the UCMR5. A copy of the March 11, 2021 Federal Register notice is available HERE.

 

Regarding these actions, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox is quoted as saying “These actions will underpin better science, better future regulation, and improved public health protections.” To read more about these actions, visit EPA’s website HERE.