HomeTop StoriesPolluters must pay to clean up areas contaminated with PFAS

Polluters must pay to clean up areas contaminated with PFAS

Michael Regan is administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. (Lisa Sorg/NC Newsline)

Industries that discharge two toxic compounds into the environment will now be held legally and financially responsible for the pollution, according to a final rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Ministry of Defense is also subject to the new requirements.

The compounds, PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, and PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, are part of a large group of laboratory-made chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They are classified as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, which authorizes the EPA to use its enforcement powers to require polluters to pay for and clean up the contamination. The designation also mandates new reporting requirements for facilities that release the compounds into the environment.

These facilities include 3M, DuPont and its spin-off company Chemours.

“By placing these chemicals under our Superfund jurisdiction, EPA can address more contaminated sites, take action sooner and expedite cleanup efforts, while ensuring polluters pay for the costs of cleaning up pollution that threatens the health of communities ” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

PFOA is a manufactured perfluorochemical and a byproduct in the production of fluoropolymers. Perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water.

The EPA announced the new rule a week after establishing legally enforceable drinking water standards for five types of the toxic compounds, as well as for a mixture. PFOA and PFOS are among the compounds with maximum contamination limits of 4 parts per trillion.

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Exposure to PFOA, PFOS and other similar compounds has been linked to multiple health problems, including thyroid and liver disease, reproductive and fetal development problems, immune system deficiencies, high cholesterol and kidney, testicular and other cancers.

There are several exceptions to the rule: entities that, often unknowingly, receive these compounds from industrial sources: community water systems and public treatment plants, municipal sewer systems, municipally owned public solid waste landfills, public airports, and local fire departments. departments and farms where biosolids are applied to the land.

When Regan announced the new drinking water standards, public utilities clamored for ways to pass treatment costs on to polluters. PFOA and PFOS, as well as other types of toxins, cannot be removed with traditional treatment methods. The upgrades could run into the tens of millions of dollars. The $1 billion in federal funding to help utilities meet drinking water standards is not enough given widespread contamination.

“Communities across the Southeast and across the country have been bearing the costs of PFAS contamination for far too long,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney and leader of the Water Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Today’s appointments will help put the burden of tackling PFAS pollution back on the polluter. Now states and municipalities must use the tools they have to stop ongoing toxic PFAS pollution before more contaminated Superfund sites are created.”

Under the new rule, entities are required to immediately report emissions of PFOA and PFOS that reach or exceed the reportable amount of one pound within a 24-hour period to the National Response Center, as well as to state, tribal and local emergency responders.

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“After decades of industry using and disposing of PFOA and PFOS, EPA can now accelerate cleanup of the most contaminated sites,” said Christine Santillana, legislative counsel for Earthjustice, in a prepared statement. “It is very encouraging to see EPA initiate this designation and gives hope to affected communities that their health will be better protected.”

The final rule also means that federal entities transferring or selling their properties must provide notice of the storage, release, or disposal of PFOA or PFOS on the property and ensure that the contamination has been cleaned up or, if necessary, that additional cleanup will be conducted take place. in the future. It will also result in the Department of Transportation labeling and regulating these substances as hazardous materials according to the EPA.

Under federal law, hazardous materials may only be transported with a special permit accompanied by a ship’s manifest. Shipping documents for most hazardous materials are publicly available through the EPA’s e-Manifest database; the transport of PFOA and PFOS can now be tracked more easily.

This designation of the two chemicals will also ensure that hundreds of Department of Defense facilities with PFOA and PFOS contamination are finally cleaned up.

This could impact the Tarheel Army Missile Plant in Burlington, where PFOA and PFOS were found in groundwater and soil last year. Although the military has already transferred that property to private owners, the Department of Defense is responsible for cleaning up the pollution underground – now including PFOA and PFOS.

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“Nearly 500 military installations are contaminated with PFAS, but the DOD has failed to make PFAS cleanup a priority — and our service members and defense communities are paying the price,” said Jared Hayes, senior policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group .

The national Sierra Club had submitted public comments last year asking the EPA to crack down on industrial discharges.

“We are grateful that the EPA continues to find ways to fight what can only be described as an uphill battle against PFAS contamination,” said Erin Carey, acting director of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Currently, the regulation of these hazardous chemicals is far too limited to be fully protective. With more than ten thousand of these compounds in production, we need to move toward regulating PFAS as a class, rather than this “whack-a-mole” method of regulating individual compounds. It will take broader and more ambitious action from this agency, from industry, and from our elected leaders to meaningfully address the terrifying and widespread threat of ‘forever chemicals’ in our bodies and our environments.”


NC Newsline, like Oregon Capital Chronicle, is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact Editor Rob Schofield: info@ncnewsline.com. Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Tweet.

The post Polluters Must Pay to Clean Up PFAS Contaminated Areas first appeared on Oregon Capital Chronicle.

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