The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took two important actions in late December 2021 related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of chemicals receiving increasing legislative and regulatory scrutiny in recent years. The two actions relate to drinking-water monitoring data and to toxicity and human-health testing data.
First, on December 20, EPA issued a rule to establish nationwide monitoring for 29 PFAS and lithium in drinking water. The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) for Public Water Systems — finalized on December 20, 2021, and issued under the Safe Drinking Water Act — is part of EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The UCMR process is conducted every five years to provide additional data on contaminants that are not regulated.
Under the new rule, most public water systems will collect new data on 29 PFAS over a 12-month period from 2023 through 2025. EPA anticipates using the data to understand the presence of PFAS in drinking water and potential patterns of contamination. Sampling for these 29 PFAS were addressed Section 7311 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020, which specified that EPA must include all PFAS in UCMR 5 for which a drinking water method has been validated but that are not subject to national primary drinking water regulation.
Second, on December 28, EPA granted an October 2020 petition from six North Carolina public health and environmental justice organizations to compel companies to conduct testing of 39 different PFAS and 15 other chemicals. By granting the petition, EPA moves toward using authority under Section 4 of the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2603, to require recipients of test orders to conduct and fund toxicity and health studies. The Trump administration EPA had denied the petition in January 2021. While the granted petition will likely affect only those companies that receive a testing order, this action heralds continued aggressive action by this EPA to develop more data about PFAS to support further regulation.
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