EPA Targets PFAS and Environmental Justice in Proposed Effluent Guidelines

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released Preliminary Effluent Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15), which outlines the Agency’s 2020 annual review of effluent guidelines and pretreatment standards (ELG), identifies new or existing industrial categories for ELG rulemaking, and provides an update on the Agency plan to improve its annual review and biennial planning process.

In Preliminary Plan 15, the EPA announced new studies on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) discharges from landfills and manufacturers of textiles and carpets and three new rulemakings: Organic Chemicals, Plastics, & Synthetic Fibers category to address PFAS discharges; Metal Finishing category to address PFAS discharges; and Meat and Poultry Products category to address nutrient discharges.

EPA is also considering how to incorporate environmental justice into the ELG framework, including the use of the Agency’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (EJSCREEN Tool) to assess the proximity and potential impact of industrial discharges on underserved and underrepresented populations. EPA specifically notes that the Agency plans to evaluate the EJSCREEN tool’s wastewater discharge indicators, which indicates stream proximity and toxic concentrations that may be associated with industrial wastewater discharges and related demographics data. The Agency may also consider additional air and waste indicators.

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