EPA Proposes Maximum PFAS Levels for Drinking Water

EPA Proposes Maximum PFAS Levels for Drinking Water

Stan Flagel Principal Scientist
Stan Flagel

Stan Flagel has over 23 years of experience as a field geologist, hydrogeologist, and project manager. He has planned and overseen investigations at a range of sites including airports, mineral prospects and mines, active oil fields, refineries, wood treating facilities, railroad yards, military installations, and industrial properties in Alaska, California, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming. He has led numerous site characterisations requiring innovative strategies for acquiring soil, surface water, and groundwater data. Stan has experience analysing large complex dataset in support of site characterisation, risk assessment, remediation, property transfer, and regulatory closure. He is strong technical writer and has prepared and edited RCRA and CERCLA investigation work plans and investigation reports, technical memorandums, and CERCLA Purposed Plans and Records of Decision. Stan has more than 14 years of experience working in Alaska and has good working relationships with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) and Region 10 EPA. In addition, Stan has represented clients in meeting with State and Federal regulators, and in public forums. He has also provided clients with litigation support as a fact witness, testifying at both depositions and in court.

Kevin King Senior Principal
Kevin King

Kevin King has over 30 years of professional environmental consulting experience. He is responsible for supervising technical teams delivering strategic project support responsive to our client’s business needs. Kevin has extensive experience with site characterisation, remediation, environmental assessment, planning, permitting, regulatory closure, post-remediation site management, and cost evaluations. Kevin’s due diligence experience ranges from one-off industrial sites being considered for redevelopment to global portfolios of manufacturing sites in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Asia/Pacific region. Much of his global due diligence experience relates to his leadership of a global account for a major US-based aerospace manufacturer on two major acquisitions totalling over $30B. His account role also included expanding and delivering EHS compliance and remediation services consistent with corporate EHS policy and programmes globally.

Kevin has been a Connecticut Licenced Environmental Professional (LEP) since the inception of the privatised programme in 1997. While the LEP programme was designed to require minimal DEEP involvement, Kevin regularly interacts with DEEP case managers regarding innovative compliance solutions. Such approaches frequently not self-implementing under the CT Remediation Standard Regulations (RSRs) therefore requiring DEEP approvals. These solutions can include waivers, variances, site-specific remedial criteria, and unique environmental land use restrictions (ELURs). He has directed many complex remedial programmes including soil stabilisation, in-situ injection, DNAPL recovery and risk-based natural attenuation strategies.

Kevin’s experience with large, complex environmental remediation projects commonly integrates business risk/legal strategies involving multi-party agreements, multi-agency involvement, and tenant and landowner issues. Many of these projects are conducted in support of legal counsel structuring broader business risk management strategies.

On Tuesday, March 14, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new set of standards for six types of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in drinking water – and explicitly indicated that no amount of two of these chemicals (PFOA and PFOS) is safe. The agency is requesting comment on the new regulation and anticipates finalising the standards by the end of 2023. The move would have a dramatic effect on the thousands of communities in the United States where PFAS chemicals have been found in drinking water, as well as tens of thousands more contaminated sites, known and unknown.

The new standards, or Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), are federally enforceable levels that represent the highest level of the contaminants that can be allowed in drinking water – different from the lifetime health advisory levels issued last June, which were advisory-only (and were set orders of magnitude lower than these MCLs). PFAS have been linked to a variety of health effects, including cancer, immune system, liver, and kidney damage, as well as reproductive issues. MCLs are somewhat unique in that they incorporate not just health effects, but also take into consideration the costs and feasibility associated with water treatment – and as PFAS cannot be removed by many traditional treatment methods, substantial upgrades will be required even at the levels proposed. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been touted by the EPA as providing $9B of funding for communities to address this issue.

EPA has proposed MCLs of 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for two of the oldest PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS. Four other PFAS compounds (PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and Gen-X) were assigned a cumulative risk level, in which any combination of those four chemicals cannot exceed a certain relative toxicity threshold dependant on how much of each chemical is present (EPA will provide an online calculator tool to use in evaluating this level).

The action is the latest move made by the agency in line with the PFAS Strategic Roadmap announced in 2021, outlining EPA’s approach to addressing the unique challenges that are faced when addressing these “forever chemicals” in the environment and their ongoing use in industrial and commercial applications. Other elements have focused on source control efforts through reporting regulations placed on the industries that use these chemicals, and a plan to name select PFAS as “hazardous substance” under CERCLA, the Superfund cleanup law.

SLR has experience advising clients on the occurrence, toxicity, and potential environmental liability posed by PFAS releases in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. Our team of experts have performed site characterisations for AFFF training facilities and other potential points of release; evaluated the toxicity of specific chemical species present to develop screening and remediation levels; and planned and performed remediation of PFAS-contaminated media. Working closely with both in-house and environmental counsel SLR has assisted clients to recover costs for remediation and to control long-term liability for confirmed releases. Additionally, SLR has advised clients and counsel on the implication of potential PFAS releases during due diligence for commercial properties.

View the EPA press release here: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation

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