Home\Advocacy\U.S. EPA Proposes Hazardous Substance Designation for PFOA and PFOS

U.S. EPA Proposes Hazardous Substance Designation for PFOA and PFOS

Date: August 26, 2022

On Friday, August 26, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a pre-publication version of its notice of proposed rulemaking to designate two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) – as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Once the notice is published in the Federal Register, which should occur in the next daysor weeks, a 60-day public comment period will begin.

The rulemaking would require entities to immediately report releases of PFOA and PFOS that meet or exceed a designated reportable quantity to the National Response Center, state, or Tribal emergency response commission, and the local or Tribal emergency planning committee (local emergency responders).

If the rule is finalized as is, entities will need to report any PFOA and PFOS discharges at or above one pound in a 24-hour period. The notice states that EPA may consider adjusting the reporting threshold once the Agency has collected more data on the size of releases and the resulting risks to human health and the environment.

While the notice explains that “a [CERCLA] designation alone does not require the EPA to take response actions, does not require any response action by a private party, and does not determine liability for hazardous substance release response costs,” it notes that indirect, downstream effects of these designations could include the following:

  • EPA and other agencies exercising delegated CERCLA authority could respond to PFOA and PFOS releases and threatened releases without making the imminent and substantial danger finding that is required for responses now.
  • EPA and delegated agencies could require potentially responsible parties to address PFOA or PFOS releases.
  • EPA and delegated agencies could recover PFOA and PFOS cleanup costs from potentially responsible parties.

EPA explains in the notice that it has not quantitatively assessed the indirect costs (for response actions) associated with a CERCLA designation decision “because of the uncertainty about such costs at this early stage in in the process.” The Agency does, however, include a qualitative discussion of indirect costs. Importantly, EPA is requesting comment on whether and how costs should be assessed and considered in its rulemaking.

In the coming days, WateReuse will be conducting an in-depth analysis of the notice and will begin developing comments through our national Policy Committee. WateReuse members can also submit comments directly by accessing Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2019- 0341 at regulations.gov.

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