Acting Assistant Administrator Office of Land and Emergency Management
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460
Re: Addressing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in the Environment (DOCKET ID: EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0922)
Dear Mr. Breen,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to consider addressing additional per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Our council’s mission is to advocate for scientifically supported decisions and a comprehensive approach to water policy that prioritizes providing reliable and safe drinking water for the maximum number of people.
While we appreciate the EPA’s continued efforts to address PFAS in the environment, we have concerns with the proposed PFAS CERCLA rule and the rationales provided. Our main areas of concern are as follows:
We advocate for a risk/benefit-based approach to regulating PFAS considering the diverse opinions of expert toxicologists and varying advisory levels for PFAS. It is evident that there is no consensus regarding the derivation of accurate risk-based thresholds for these compounds, and international agencies have developed pragmatic approaches that consider significant uncertainties within the available toxicity data. We encourage the EPA to adopt a more balanced and practical approach to interpreting the potential human health risks associated with the PFAS listed in the ANPRM, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
The proposed PFAS CERCLA rule will have significant economic impacts on the water sector. Water treatment facilities and water utilities across the country may be required to implement costly measures to detect, treat, and remove PFAS from drinking water sources. It is imperative that the trigger for such actions be based on well-defined health implications to ensure response actions result in improved public health and do not waste resources. The development and adoption of advanced treatment technologies and infrastructure upgrades to comply with the proposed PFAS standards can lead to substantial capital expenses for the water sector. A more robust cost impact analysis should detail the potential impact for the water sector and other industries.
Water and wastewater systems could be held liable for cleanup and remediation of PFAS, which would divert cost and attention away from known water threats. The cost of water treatment and infrastructure upgrades required to meet stringent PFAS standards could place an additional strain on already limited resources. As cities strive to ensure the provision of safe drinking water to their residents, the financial implications of PFAS regulation must be carefully evaluated to prevent unintended consequences on municipal budgets and public services. The EPA should also consider the financial burden that will be extended to the rate payer and the increased costs per household.
For many municipal water utilities, CERCLA compliance expenses associated with PFAS are likely to crowd out investments that would yield greater public health benefits, such as arsenic and lead abatement, or distribution system improvements. CERCLA also introduces a set of new complexities that most drinking water utilities have never had to address before. Small or medium-sized utilities may lack the institutional expertise and bandwidth to deal with the legal and reporting requirements alone.
Disposal considerations and guidance must also be more clearly defined. As the water sector adopts PFAS treatment technologies, the issue of PFAS waste disposal becomes critical. If these PFAS are designated as a hazardous substance under CERCLA, the disposal of waste containing PFAS may become more complex and costly. Water utilities will need clear guidance and regulations on how to manage, store, and dispose of PFAS-containing waste materials safely. We request the EPA assess and provide guidance on the potential costs of treatment and disposal guidelines for PFAS materials, as well as potential alternatives to minimize the financial impact.
In conclusion, we strongly advocate for an approach to PFAS regulation that is based on robust scientific evidence and takes into account the impacts and unintended consequences of this rule. As we strive to ensure the availability of safe drinking water for all, we must also consider the economic implications and the potential burden this rule could place on already strained resources. We appreciate your consideration of our feedback and hope that it will contribute to the development of a comprehensive and effective approach to addressing PFAS in the environment.
Water & Health Advisory Council
Rob Renner, Council Chair, Former Chief Executive Officer at Water Research Foundation
Janet Anderson, Principal Toxicologist, GSI Environmental Inc.
Chad Seidel, Ph.D., President, Corona Environmental Consulting
Joseph Cotruvo, Ph.D., BCES President, Joseph Cotruvo & Associates
Joyce Dinglasan-Panlilio, Ph.D., Division Chair/Associate Professor in Environmental Chemistry at University of Washington-Tacoma
Kathryn Sorensen, Director of Research at the Kyl Center for Water Policy, Arizona State University Manuel Teodoro, Robert F. and Sylvia T. Wagner Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs at University of Wisconsin-Madison