EPA reveals ‘Strategic Roadmap’ for PFAS The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a “Strategic Roadmap” to deal with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which includes a commitment to setting drinking water limits under “aggressive” timelines. Other highlights of the plan include the following: A hazardous substance designation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), known also as Superfund. Timelines for action — whether data collection or rulemaking — on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories. A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to address those that are insufficiently protective. Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them. A final toxicity assessment for Hexafluoropropylene Oxide Dimer Acid (HFPO-DA or GenX), which will be used to develop health advisories. EPA is implementing the regulatory process set forth in the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is the approach that AWWA has recommended. AWWA continues to encourage EPA to use the best available science to determine how to best regulate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The Association has repeatedly called on EPA to better utilize the TSCA and other statutes to gather data and take appropriate actions to prevent problematic PFAS compounds from entering the nation’s water supply. Importantly, EPA identifies pollution prevention as an important element of the plan. Shortly after releasing the Roadmap, EPA responded to a petition filed by the State of New Mexico and stakeholder concerns that it did not include any commitments under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA committed to initiating efforts to support two rulemakings. It will collect data to propose four PFAS chemicals as RCRA hazardous constituents. The four PFAS chemicals are: PFOA, PFOS, perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) and GenX. The second rulemaking will clarify that the RCRA Corrective Action Program has the authority to require investigation and cleanup for wastes that meet the statutory definition of hazardous waste as defined under RCRA section 1004(5), thereby allowing emerging contaminants (e.g., PFAS) to be cleaned up through the RCRA corrective action process. EPA released its final human health effects assessment for Gen-X . The resulting reference doses (RFD) are an order of magnitude lower than the draft RFDs released in 2018. The final subchronic RfD is 0.00003 mg/kg-day, and the final chronic RfD is 0.000003 mg/kg-day. EPA notes in releasing the human health toxicity assessment for GenX that it is reassessing prior human health risk assessments for PFOA, PFOS and PFBS. Early text of reconciliation package shows new funding for water New legislative text for the budget reconciliation package featured so much in the news these days was circulating on Capitol Hill on Thursday afternoon, and it showed significant new funding for certain drinking water issues. Among the features was $9 billion for lead remediation projects for drinking water. This money would be targeted to economically disadvantaged communities for “full service line replacement,” lead filtration systems at schools and daycare centers, replacement of drinking fountains at schools and for compliance monitoring. Cost-sharing would be waived. There would also be $225 million to help low-income water customers who are behind in their bills. This program would be administered by EPA instead of the Department of Health and Human Services, as such funding provided in last spring’s pandemic relief legislation mandated. Because EPA is not really a social services agency, there is some concern in Washington, D.C. about its ability to roll this new funding out in a timely fashion. Other parts of the latest reconciliation package showed funding for wastewater and stormwater projects, water-efficient appliances and a variety of other water-related interests. This newest legislative package may still have a long road. Thursday’s text still had to go through the U.S. House Committee on Rules before it even reached the House floor. Then it must go to the U.S. Senate. We may not see final resolution until the end of November, according to Capitol Hill insiders. Traveling in tandem with this legislation is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), or H.R. 3684. The big question now is whether the newest reconciliation package will satisfy the Congressional Progressive Caucus enough to vote for the BIF. The BIF would not only reauthorize the drinking water and wastewater state revolving loan fund programs but would also provide $15 billion for lead service line replacement. Another part of the BIF would extend Buy American mandates to manufactured goods. Fox promises water rule for PFOA, PFOS by deadline EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox told U.S. senators at a hearing last week that drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS were years late in being promulgated but expressed optimism that the Agency could issue a final rule ahead of the 2023 statutory deadline, perhaps as early as fall 2022. The subject of the hearing was EPA’s ongoing PFAS efforts. EPA also expects to issue a rule by next spring designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the CERCLA. Sen. Shelly Moore-Capito (R-W. Va.), the committee’s ranking Republican member, voiced her concern that utilities working to remove PFAS from water and biosolids could be held liable for cleanup under such a designation. AWWA has also repeatedly expressed this concern to members of Congress and will continue to advocate for a liability exemption for water utilities and other PFAS “receivers” working to remove PFAS from the environment. CDC reduces blood lead reference value This week federal agencies took the opportunity to announce their most recent efforts to reduce lead exposure. To-date the most important new development in these announcements for water systems is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further reducing the blood lead reference value (BLRV) to 3.5 μg/dL. CDC summarizes the purpose of the reference value noting it “is not a clinical reference level defining an acceptable range of blood lead levels in children nor is it a health-based toxicity threshold. The BLRV is used as a screening tool to: (1) identify children who have higher levels of lead in their blood compared with most children, and (2) assess the effectiveness of prevention efforts.” The BLRV was first defined as the 97.5 percentile blood lead level in children 1 – 5 years of age in 2012. The new BLRV represents a 30% reduction for the previous 5 μg/dL value illustrating continued success in controlling exposure to lead from all sources. CDC provides a number of resources to assist understanding the BLRV and communicating with the interested public. Also, EPA released its Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities for public comment. The Strategy does not have specific timeframes for identified activities, but several interesting elements include: A focus on lead service line replacement using anticipated federal funding Focusing EPA lead reduction activities where blood lead levels are highest Identify and evaluate local-scale information including lead in water data to facilitate citizen science approaches. Agency agrees to new deadline for CCR update EPA this week published the contents of a consent decree in which the Agency agrees to propose a revised rule for Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) by March 2023 and issue a final rule by March 2024. That settlement is open for public comment through Nov. 26. After the public comment period, EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will finalize and submit the settlement to the court. The settlement only covers the timeline and not the content of the rule. Under Section 2008 of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 , EPA was required to update the Consumer Confidence Report Rule to address challenges such as readability of the reports, codifying electronic delivery rules, adding information about corrosion control treatment and providing the report biannually by systems serving at least 10,000 persons. The congressionally mandated deadline for finalizing the rule was October 2020. After EPA missed that deadline, NRDC sued (Natural Resources Defense Council v. Regan, No. 21 Civ 461 [VEC][S.D.N.Y.]) to seek new dates for EPA to propose and finalize the rule. AWWA has and will continue to engage throughout the regulatory process on this rule and provide information. Contact Adam Carpenter in AWWA’s Washington, D.C., office with any questions. EPA seeking nominations for science board EPA is seeking nominations for technical experts to serve on its Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), a federal advisory committee to the Agency’s Office of Research and Development. The BOSC serves as the primary external advisory body to EPA’s intramural and extramural research program. Individuals may self-nominate, and nominations are due by Nov. 12 via EPA’s electronic submission system . Members of the BOSC constitute a distinguished body of non-EPA scientists, engineers and economists who are experts in their respective fields. EPA will consider nominees from industry, business, public and private research institutes or organizations, academia, government (federal, state, local and tribal) and non-government organizations, and other relevant interest areas. Members are appointed by the EPA Administrator to serve as Special Government Employees and provide independent expert advice to the Agency for a term of up to six years.