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PFAS Policy Symposium Speakers Focus on National Solutions

On September 26, K&L Gates, a global law firm focused on industry and policy, held a PFAS Policy Symposium in Washington, DC. The symposium included opening remarks from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and two panels – one with Michal Freedhoff from the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and Deirdre White of ASDWA to share Congressional and state perspectives; and one with Tracy Mehan of AWWA and representatives from the American Chemistry Council and the US Chamber of Commerce to share industry perspectives. While many PFAS actions and challenges were shared, key discussion points focused on the need for a comprehensive national approach and realistic regulatory framework that prioritizes solutions for PFAS contamination and use based on risks to public health, environmental fate and transport, and better understanding the use and need for PFAS in products.

Administrator Wheeler shared updates on EPA’s PFAS Action Plan as well as additional actions the Agency is taking to assess and address PFAS. He noted two new EPA PFAS actions taken on September 25th:

  • An advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
  • A supplemental proposal to ensure that certain persistent long-chain PFAS chemicals cannot be imported into the US without notification and review by EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Significant New Use Rules (SNURs).

Wheeler also highlighted EPA’s efforts including: direct PFAS enforcement actions and assistance with state enforcement actions throughout the country; regulatory decision-making for developing drinking water standards and designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the CERCLA (Superfund) program; risk assessment development for PFAS in bio-solids and grants for agricultural research; and more. Regarding proposed legislation in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), he said that it would be impossible for EPA to designate the entire class of PFAS compounds as hazardous substances under CERCLA.

Speakers from the other organizations highlighted current PFAS actions, challenges, and views from their different perspectives, including the Senate EPW on current legislation and ASDWA on state drinking water program resources and regulatory considerations. While discussions with the panelists and audience included many topics such as not looking at PFAS compounds one-by-one or as an entire class, comments were primarily focused on the need for science-based and data-driven regulatory processes that consider feasibility, costs, benefits, and risk trade-offs for prioritizing national PFAS actions.