WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency is behind schedule on releasing a proposal for designating as hazardous substances two of the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The delay threatens federal efforts to limit and clean up PFAS pollution.
The proposal would designate two notorious and widespread PFAS – PFOA and PFOS – as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, better known as the Superfund law.
More than 80 environmental, health and business groups, including the Environmental Working Group, last week sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to fulfill his promise to designate these chemicals as hazardous substances. The designation would be an important first step toward holding polluters accountable for their PFAS pollution, encouraging more responsible stewardship, and kick-starting efforts to clean up contaminated sites.
The agency planned to release the proposal in the spring, which ended on June 21, and it has yet to announce a new target date for the designation.
The proposal is one of several priority actions for tackling PFAS announced by the Biden administration in October 2021. EWG is tracking the status of 90 planned federal PFAS actions with its Federal PFAS Report Card.
EWG lauded the administration’s plan for tackling PFAS when it was first announced, but the hazardous substance designation and several other commitments are slipping past original deadlines. In EWG’s most recent tally, the EPA has completed just three out of seven actions planned for spring 2022, and none of the actions scheduled for summer 2022 have been completed.
“Federal agencies need to stay on track,” said John Reeder, EWG’s vice president for federal affairs. “More urgency is needed with PFAS, because they are highly toxic, do not degrade in the environment, and accumulate in human bodies. Time is not on our side,” he said.
EWG’s latest update to the Federal PFAS Report Card does contain some bright spots:
- The EPA published strict lifetime health advisories to help guide protection of drinking water that may be contaminated with PFAS.
- EPA issued new “regional screening levels” for five PFAS to help federal and state officials assess PFAS risks at contaminated sites.
- The Food and Drug Administration published the results of food monitoring studies.
- The Department of Defense met its deadline for posting water testing plans at potentially contaminated sites. But the DOD has not completed a congressionally mandated report on the status of 50 priority sites.
Congressional action could help advance federal efforts to address PFAS. The House recently passed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023 that would set deadlines for Clean Water Act regulations on industrial dischargers of PFAS, and speed up PFAS efforts at the DOD.
Reeder also urged Congress to support full funding for EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which outlines its planned actions for tackling the forever chemicals, including funding for setting Clean Water Act limits on PFAS dischargers.
“We urge Congress to fully fund PFAS efforts across the government. Communities cannot afford more delay,” Reeder said.
The House-passed version of the agency’s FY 2023 spending bill includes $126 million for efforts to address PFAS. But the Senate has not yet considered its version of the legislation.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.