On Thursday, February 14, the Environmental Protection Agency released its comprehensive PFAS Action Plan to provide support and strategies for dealing with the growing crisis of water contamination across the country. And while the plan is light on specific details or a concrete timeline, it offers a roadmap for cleanup and enforcement.
The EPA’s PFAS Action Plan outlines the steps the agency plans to take to address PFAS contamination in Michigan and communities across the country. The plan includes moves to set a federal maximum containment level (MCL) for PFAS. Currently, the EPA has an established health advisory level of 70 parts-per-trillion, however, this is non-binding and can vary from state to state.
In addition, the new action plan lays out a groundwork to expand research to help understand and manage the risk from PFAS and improve nationwide drinking water monitoring to detect new potential PFAS contamination sites. The EPA also plans to use enforcement tools to address PFAS exposure in the environment to investigate and hold responsible parties accountable for contaminating the environment. This includes categorizing PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the federal super fund law, allowing the agency to compel cleanup efforts from responsible parties.
Since unveiling the plan, the EPA has received a mixed response from environmental groups and affected communities for failing to set an expedited timeline for the rollout of the action plan. Most of the actions planned by the EPA are given timeframes ranging from 2019 to 2022. For communities that have been dealing with PFAS contamination on a daily basis, the lack of specific details feels like the EPA is simply paying lip service.
"It has taken the EPA nearly a year just to kick the can even further down the road," said U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.). “The PFAS Action Plan being trumpeted by EPA today is insufficiently protective, and it explains why Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler would not commit to setting a drinking water standard for PFAS during his nomination hearing last month.”
Even those assisting the EPA addressing the PFAS contamination crisis have expressed concern over the lack of an actionable timeline.
“While we continue to support federal action on PFAS, we are concerned that the timeline for Federal action on PFAS standards and regulations is not more aggressive,” said Department of Environmental Quality Spokesperson Scott Dean. “We look forward to receiving more clarity from EPA on its anticipated timetable for accomplishing the priorities it laid out this morning.”
However, despite the lack of details, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler affirms that the agency’s PFAS action plan is a priority.
"Our goal is to close the gap on the science as quickly as possible, especially as it relates to other emerging risks like GenX," he said.