Concerns Over Groundwater Cleanup Standards for PFAS


Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), sent a letter to EPA Administrator Wheeler this week outlining his concerns about the Agency’s development of groundwater cleanup standards for PFAS.  Senator Carper is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works with oversight for much of EPA’s activities.  The Senator is concerned about reports that the Department of Defense and other federal agencies with potential PFAS cleanup liabilities are pressuring EPA to set cleanup standards for groundwater that are significantly higher than the EPA Heath Advisory level of 70 ppt.  Media reports suggest values as high as 400 ppt are being proposed by other federal agencies.  Even 70 ppt is above what many states have set as advisories or standards for drinking water.  For example, this week the state of New Jersey adopted interim specific groundwater quality standards of 10 ppt for PFOA and PFOS.

According to the Senator’s letter, adopting higher standards will increase the health risk for citizens near PFAS sites.  An added concern is that the internal disputes at the federal level will delay the final cleanup standards and slow or complicate cleanup at many contaminated sites. Inter-agency conflicts over the appropriate toxicity numbers for PFOA and PFOA reportedly delayed the issuance of the draft ATSDR Toxicological Profile for PFAS, so there was already considerable sensitivity about these issues in Congress.  In their PFAS Action Plan, EPA committed to issuing interim groundwater cleanup standards by the end of this year.  More information on all EPA’s PFAS activities can be found here.