EPA Announces PFAS Levels Could be Considered for Pollutant Discharge Permits

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a press release on Monday that it has developed a new strategy to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in its wastewater permits. PFAS are man-made chemicals used in multiple industries, including in firefighting products and water and stain repellent materials. The use of most PFAS has been discontinued, according to the EPA, but there are still some uses which are causing contamination. 

“Better understanding and addressing PFAS is a top priority for EPA, and the agency is continuing to develop needed research and policies,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in the release. “For the first time in EPA’s history, we are utilizing all of our program offices to address a singular, cross-cutting contaminant and the agency’s efforts are critical to supporting our state and local partners.”

The interim National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting strategy for PFAS will include a cross-agency workgroup to provide recommendations on how to include the substances in NPDES permits. The strategy “advises EPA permit writers” to include PFAS monitoring in permit requests when the chemicals could be included in wastewater, specifically for municipal and industrial stormwater systems. 

A memorandum detailing this strategy was released on Nov. 22. Monday’s statement said that the issuance of this memorandum, along with information released by the EPA on its efforts to develop methods to test for PFAS in wastewater and the environment will “help ensure that federally enforceable wastewater monitoring for PFAS can begin as soon as validated analytical methods are finalized.”  

This step is part of the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan, which also includes taking steps to ensure drinking water is tested for PFAS and improvements are made in cleanup and monitoring. The press release also detailed steps the agency has taken during the last year to research PFAS, provide information and assistance to states, and enforce tools that address PFAS exposure.