Aggressively addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment continues to be an active and ongoing priority for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of these efforts, EPA is asking for public input on new draft guidance that outlines which imported articles are covered by the agency’s July 2020 final rule that prohibits companies from manufacturing, importing, processing, or using certain long-chain PFAS without prior EPA review and approval. More specifically, this guidance provides additional clarity for stakeholders that are importers of articles that may contain long-chain PFAS as part of a surface coating.
Comment deadline is January 15, 2021.
The draft guidance:
- Provides additional clarity on what is meant by a “surface coating.”
- Identifies which entities are regulated.
- Describes the activities that are required or prohibited.
- Summarizes the notification requirements of the final rule.
Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, EPA will accept comments on the guidance for 30 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2020-0621 on www.regulations.gov. EPA will use feedback received from the public comment process to inform the final guidance.
The July 2020 final rule is part of EPA’s PFAS Action Plan issued in February 2019. The cross-agency plan is the most comprehensive effort ever to address an emerging chemical of concern. Through the plan, EPA has made significant progress to help states and local communities address PFAS and protect public health.
Background on Draft Guidance
In July 2020, EPA issued a final rule strengthening the regulation of PFAS by requiring notice and EPA review before the use of long-chain PFAS (LCPFAC) that have been phased out in the United States could begin again. Additionally, products containing certain long-chain PFAS as a surface coating and carpet containing perfluoroalkyl sulfonate chemical substances can no longer be imported into the United States without EPA review.
This action means that articles like textiles, carpet, furniture, electronics, and household appliances that could contain certain PFAS chemicals cannot be imported into the United States unless EPA reviews and approves the use or puts in place the necessary restrictions to address any unreasonable risks.
For more information on the final rule: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/risk-management-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas
Background on PFAS Action Plan
EPA continues to make progress under its PFAS Action Plan to protect the environment and human health, including:
- In December 2019, EPA accomplished a key milestone in the PFAS Action Plan by publishing a new validated method to accurately test for 11 additional PFAS in drinking water. Method 533 complements EPA Method 537.1, and the agency can now measure 29 chemicals.
- In February 2020, EPA took an important step in implementing the agency’s PFAS Action Plan by proposing to regulate PFOA and PFOS drinking water.
- EPA also asked for information and data on other PFAS substances, as well as sought comment on potential monitoring requirements and regulatory approaches.
- In November 2020, EPA issued a memo detailing an interim National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permitting strategy for PFAS. The agency also released information on progress in developing new analytical methods to test for PFAS compounds in wastewater and other environmental media.
- In December 2019, EPA issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which provides guidance for federal cleanup programs (e.g., CERCLA and RCRA) that will also be helpful to states and tribes.
- The recommendations provide a starting point for making site-specific cleanup decisions and will help protect drinking water resources in communities across the country.
- In July 2020, EPA submitted the Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of PFAS and Materials Containing PFAS to OMB for interagency review. The guidance would:
- Provide information on technologies that may be feasible and appropriate for the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials.
- Identify ongoing research and development activities related to destruction and disposal technologies, which may inform future guidance.
- EPA is working on the proposed rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA. In the absence of the rule, EPA has used its existing authorities to compel cleanups.
- In July 2020, EPA transmitted the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5 (UCMR 5) proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review. EPA anticipates proposing nationwide drinking water monitoring for PFAS that uses new methods that can detect PFAS at lower concentrations than previously possible.
- In September 2019, EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
- In June 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that added a list of 172 PFAS chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory reporting as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
- In July 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that can stop products containing PFAS from entering or reentering the marketplace without EPA’s explicit permission.
- EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions.
- EPA continues to develop new methods to test for additional PFAS in drinking water.
- The agency is also validating analytical methods for surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soils, sediments and biosolids; developing new methods to test for PFAS in air and emissions; and improving laboratory methods to discover unknown PFAS.
- EPA is developing exposure models to understand how PFAS moves through the environment to impact people and ecosystems.
- EPA is working to develop tools to assist officials with the cleanup of contaminated sites.
- In July 2020, EPA added new treatment information for removing PFAS from drinking water.
- Just as important as the progress on PFAS at the federal level are EPA efforts to form partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities across the country.
- EPA has provided assistance to more than 30 states to help address PFAS, and the agency is continuing to build on this support.
- These joint projects allow EPA to take the knowledge of its world-class scientists and apply it in a collaborative fashion where it counts most.
- EPA continues to use enforcement tools, when appropriate, to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assist states in enforcement activities.
- EPA has already taken actions to address PFAS, including issuing Safe Drinking Water Act orders and providing support to states. See examples in the PFAS Action Plan.
- To date, across the nation, EPA has addressed PFAS in 15 cases using a variety of enforcement tools under SDWA, TSCA, RCRA, and CERCLA (where appropriate), and will continue to do so to protect public health and the environment.
Grants and Funding
- Under this Administration, EPA’s Office of Research and Development has awarded over $15 million through dozens of grants for PFAS research.
- In May 2019, EPA awarded approximately $3.9 million through two grants for research that will improve the agency’s understanding of human and ecological exposure to PFAS in the environment. This research will also promote a greater awareness of how to restore water quality in PFAS-impacted communities.
- In September 2019, EPA awarded nearly $6 million to fund research by eight organizations to expand the agency’s understanding of the environmental risks posed by PFAS in waste streams and to identify practical approaches to manage potential impacts as PFAS enters the environment.
- In August 2020, EPA awarded $4.8 million in funding for federal research to help identify potential impacts of PFAS to farms, ranches, and rural communities.
Highlighted Action: Risk Communications
- EPA is working collaboratively to develop a risk communication toolbox that includes multimedia materials and messaging for federal, state, tribal, and local partners to use with the public.
Additional information about PFAS can be found at: www.epa.gov/pfas