[co-author: Emily Guillaume]
On March 17, the U.S. Environmental Safety Company (EPA) printed an Advance Discover of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that places forth 28 questions directed at producers and formulators of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The company intends to make use of the ANPRM and feedback it receives to provoke formal rulemaking to ascertain effluent limitations pointers (ELGs) for amenities that manufacture or mix PFAS with different chemical substances or merchandise, probably at the least initially as an modification to the prevailing pointers governing the “Natural Chemical substances, Plastics and Artificial Fibers” (OCPSF) industrial sector.
ELGs are sector-specific wastewater discharge limits primarily based on the diploma of pollutant discount that may be achieved by means of demonstrated therapy applied sciences and controls bearing in mind feasibility, price, and different components. They’ll solely be established by means of in depth notice-and-comment rulemaking and require important technical and financial administrative document help. EPA is required to contemplate updates to present ELGs or establish new industrial discharge classes probably in want of management as a part of its ongoing assessment obligations below the Clear Water Act. ELGs are included into Nationwide Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for the coated sources.
The OCPSF sector at the moment contains, amongst different industries, producers of PFAS. Word, nevertheless, that formulators of PFAS usually are not essentially included throughout the present OCPSF sector. Formulators are amenities that take uncooked PFAS feedstock and combine the chemical substances into new industrial merchandise or intermediate merchandise which might be subsequently utilized in different client merchandise. Consequently, the info EPA gathers below this ANPRM could also be used to revise different ELGs or create a brand new ELG class or subcategory. It is usually probably that EPA will proceed to judge the necessity for PFAS ELGs for different important end-user sectors, equivalent to industrial airports, textile and carpet manufactures, pulp and paper amenities, and different manufacturing sectors.
The ANPRM follows EPA’s January 11 launch of its newest “ELG Plan,” the place it introduced it could be in search of new knowledge to draft a PFAS ELG rule. Addressing PFAS in water has been a precedence at EPA over the previous a number of years, however after enterprise a multi-industry research on PFAS use, therapy, and discharges, the company seems to be acknowledging that it at the moment lacks the info it wants to instantly transfer into a proper rulemaking course of. The ANPRM ought to fill among the info gaps EPA at the moment has on industrial sources of PFAS discharges, in addition to the categories and concentrations of the PFAS compounds contained within the discharges. Moreover, EPA could acquire further info concerning the quantity and areas of commercial websites that use PFAS, together with the identities of recognized PFAS formulators and producers. So far, the ANPRM has preliminarily recognized six PFAS manufacturing websites and 10 attainable PFAS formulators, however EPA expects these numbers to vary. EPA might also search to make use of different info gathering authorities to complement the knowledge it receives by means of the ANPRM course of.
EPA additionally seeks info associated to how PFAS producers and formulators deal with, handle, and get rid of PFAS-contaminated wastewater. To that finish, EPA is requesting that wastewater monitoring knowledge be accompanied by info on the analytical strategies utilized by the producers and formulators, along with info concerning any present therapy techniques at the moment deployed to restrict discharges to floor waters or wastewater therapy vegetation. This info helps EPA decide whether or not it wants to maneuver ahead with a proper ELG course of for specific supply classes, and whether or not present controls can obtain significant pollutant reductions. Business incessantly engages with EPA at this stage to make sure that EPA is appearing on correct info and isn’t merely regulating primarily based on the notion of want. Importantly, EPA can also be requesting knowledge on any PFAS compounds detected in wastewater — not simply the PFAS compounds which will already be monitored by means of particular person NPDES allow necessities.
Whereas this advance discover serves as an acknowledgement that EPA could at the moment lack the info it must set sector-specific requirements, it does function a harbinger of laws to return below the brand new administration. And whereas EPA is barely within the advance phases of rulemaking, EPA will proceed to work with its regions and states on strategies for monitoring after which regulating particular person discharges of PFAS by means of the NPDES allow program. That this discover was a continuation of a Trump administration initiative below its PFAS Action Plan additionally speaks volumes in regards to the stage of bipartisan help focused PFAS regulation at the moment has within the government department, on the Hill, and on the state and area people stage. That help is anticipated to develop over the subsequent few years.