July 20, 2023
On March 14, 2023, EPA announced the proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS chemicals. The proposed PFAS NPDWR doesn't require action until it is finalized. EPA anticipates finalization by the end of 2023.
In general, EPA is proposing the NPDWR to establish legally enforceable levels, called Maximum Contaminant Levels, for six PFAS in drinking water. PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, and PFHxS, PFNA, PFBS, and HFPO-DA (commonly referred to as GenX Chemicals) as a PFAS mixture. EPA is also proposing health-based, non-enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level Goals for the six PFAS.
Recently, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has shared that the council, along with other organizations around the country oppose EPA’s drinking water proposal.
ACC has provided a detailed critique of the proposal and argues that it must be based in sound science and realistic economic data, which the proposal currently fails to do.
Among additional points raised, ACC argues: EPA has relied on an assessment of potential health effects that is fundamentally flawed; overstates the non-cancer risks associated with PFOA and PFOS exposure; fails to demonstrate that the benefits of the proposal justify the costs as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act; and significantly underestimated the costs of complying with the proposed standard and the number of systems that will be impacted;
Many organizations have also commented on the proposed NPDWR and raised many of the same concerns presented by ACC. Below are a small sample of comments taking issue with the proposal and detailing the negative impacts that could result if enacted.
American Water Works Association: “A recent analysis by Black & Veatch estimated that the costs of the proposed standards could exceed $2.5 to $3.2 billion annually. The Administrator will need to determine if these costs are justified by the benefits, estimated to be $0.8 to $1.2 billion annually, and whether it is a meaningful opportunity to protect public health when this investment will divert water systems investments from other needs to assuring compliance with any final PFAS rule requirements.”
American Water Works Company: “The estimated national cost to install treatment facilities and processes to remove PFOA and PFOS at drinking water facilities to levels required by EPA’s proposal exceeds $47 billion, which is approximately $35 billion above what would be required to meet current state established PFAS limits. Further, it will require, on a national basis, more than $700 million annually for operating costs, which is approximately $500 million more than what would be required to meet current state established PFAS limits. These dollar values are significantly higher than EPA’s cost estimates.”
Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies: “EPA’s cost analysis vastly underestimates the real-world costs that this rulemaking will impose on public water systems, and ratepayers will bear those costs. Even worse, those costs will disproportionately affect economically disadvantaged and underserved communities. … Given the numerous pressing priorities that public water systems are already grappling with, including challenges posed by aging infrastructure, compliance with various regulations, the impacts of climate change, and the current difficulties stemming from inflation, labor shortages, and disruptions in the supply chain, it is evident that more time than what is proposed in this rulemaking will be necessary for the implementation of PFAS treatment technologies.”
Association of Public Health Laboratories: “APHL has significant concerns that the national testing needs are underestimated and that there will be insufficient analytical capability and capacity without investment in laboratory infrastructure related to the addition of skilled analysts, acquisition of dedicated laboratory instrumentation (LC/MS, LC/MS/MS), training of laboratory scientists on the new technology and PFAS drinking water methodology and informatics solutions to support the proposed reporting requirements. … It will be a challenge for the commercial market to meet these demands.”
Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials: “[ASTSWMO] recommends that EPA evaluate classes of PFAS that have common characteristics [and] provide more careful consideration of PFAS functional groups, chain length, and toxic endpoints, and the use of a more-refined approach for the combined regulation of these chemicals.”
Del-Co Water Company: “Based on the actual average capital expense received by Del-Co Water’s preliminary engineering study (i.e., $67 million), the EPA range appears to significantly underestimate the potential costs to PWSs [public water systems]…. Del-Co questions whether this funding could be allocated to other priorities (e.g., replacing lead service lines, upgrading cybersecurity, replacing aging infrastructure, and assuring sustainable water supplies) which would provide greater benefit, risk reduction, and public health protection to the ratepayers.”
National Association of Clean Water Agencies: “NACWA’s comments include concerns over EPA’s severe underestimation of cost impacts to public water systems (PWSs), EPA’s shortsightedness in not fully considering laboratory capacity and the guaranteed backlog that will occur when tens of thousands of PWSs and clean water utilities are trying to monitor and comply simultaneously, the likelihood of treatment equipment and carbon supply shortages, and, lastly, the potential impacts on greenhouse gas emissions due to energy consumption at PWSs and clean water utilities.”
These are only some of the organizations that do not agree with the propsal as it stands; there are also organizations in 10 states and various municipalities who have written their concerns. ACC lists more opposing companies of the NPDWR proposal here.
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