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The EPA’s PFAS Action Plan

August 5th, 2019

In this special series from HRP we will be taking a deep dive into the looming threat of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These Forever Chemicals are associated with: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), and pregnancy-induced hypertension, and they are present in the blood of nearly every single person in the industrialized world. PFAS have been found on every continent and detected in wildlife across the globe. In the last years we’ve begun to see regulatory bodies moving on this threat, with a handful of state’s leading the charge on addressing the dangers of PFAS.

Over the coming weeks The Consult will dedicate multiple blog posts to this topic, shining a light on the uncertain path forward for this growing concern. HRP’s environmental and compliance experts will bring their many decades of experience to vetting the latest information. We will bring their findings to you in our concise and readable posts. You can see all of posts for The Consult here. Check back each week for the latest.

We will kick off this series with a special on the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan, written by HRP’s Technical Director Gail M. Batchelder, Ph.D., P.G., L.E.P.

Known as the Forever Chemicals, Per- and Polyfloroalkyl substances (PFAS) are emerging contaminants that have been in use since the 1940s and can be found in countless consumer products, such as clothing, carpeting, and food containers, to create grease- and stain-resistant products, and have also been widely used in firefighting foams. Due to the widespread use of these chemicals and their persistence in the environment, addressing human exposure to these chemicals through such pathways as drinking water has presented an emerging environmental challenge in recent years. 

To address this challenge, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed an action plan, which was released in February 2019 as “EPA’s Per- and Polyfloroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan”.  This Action Plan identifies EPA’s short-term solutions and long-term strategies in several key areas, including drinking water, research, risk communication, cleanup, and enforcement.

Release of the Action Plan indicates EPA’s efforts to assist state, tribal, and local agencies in responding to the variety of complex issues related to PFAS in the environment.  Through the Action Plan, EPA describes its approach to identifying and understanding PFAS, addressing current PFAS contamination, preventing future contamination, and providing effective communication with the public. Specifically, EPA identified the following key areas in which it will take actions to address PFAS-related challenges.

  • Expand toxicity information for PFAS
  • Develop new tools to characterize PFAS in the environment
  • Evaluate cleanup approaches
  • Develop guidance to facilitate cleanup of contaminated groundwater
  • Use enforcement tools to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assist states in enforcement activities
  • Use legal tools such as those in TSCA to prevent future PFAS contamination
  • Address PFAS in drinking water using regulatory and other tools
  • Develop new tools and materials to communicate about PFAS.

A summary of the key items in the Action Plan is also provided in an associated EPA Fact Sheet (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-02/documents/pfas_action_factsheet_021319_final_508compliant.pdf).

Gail L. Batchelder, Ph.D., P.G., L.E.P., Technical Director at HRP Associates, Inc.

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