EPA Announces New Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFAS Chemicals

June 17, 2022
The EPA recently released four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the latest action under President Biden’s action plan to deliver clean water and Administrator Regan’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. EPA also announced that it is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion – the first of $5 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant funding – to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities. These actions build on EPA’s progress to safeguard communities from PFAS pollution and scientifically inform upcoming efforts, including EPA’s forthcoming proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for PFOA and PFOS, which EPA will release in the fall of 2022.
“People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long. That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are also investing $1 billion to reduce PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.”
“Today’s actions highlight EPA’s commitment to use the best available science to tackle PFAS pollution, protect public health, and provide critical information quickly and transparently,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “EPA is also demonstrating its commitment to harmonize policies that strengthen public health protections with infrastructure funding to help communities—especially disadvantaged communities—deliver safe water.”
$1 Billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding
As part of a government-wide effort to confront PFAS pollution, EPA is making available $1 billion in grant funding through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination, the first of $5 billion through the Law that can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts. These funds can be used in small or disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water through actions such as technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training, and installation of centralized treatment technologies and systems.
EPA will be reaching out to states and territories with information on how to submit their letter of intent to participate in this new grant program. EPA will also consult with Tribes and Alaskan Native Villages regarding the Tribal set-aside for this grant program. This funding complements $3.4 billion in funding that is going through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $3.2 billion through the Clean Water SRFs that can also be used to address PFAS in water this year.
Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisories for Four PFAS
The agency is releasing PFAS health advisories in light of newly available science and in accordance with EPA’s responsibility to protect public health. These advisories indicate the level of drinking water contamination below which adverse health effects are not expected to occur. Health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local officials can use to inform the development of monitoring plans, investments in treatment solutions, and future policies to protect the public from PFAS exposure.
EPA’s lifetime health advisories identify levels to protect all people, including sensitive populations and life stages, from adverse health effects resulting from a lifetime of exposure to these PFAS in drinking water. EPA’s lifetime health advisories also take into account other potential sources of exposure to these PFAS beyond drinking water (for example, food, air, consumer products, etc.), which provides an additional layer of protection.   
EPA is issuing interim, updated drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that replace those EPA issued in 2016. The updated advisory levels, which are based on new science and consider lifetime exposure, indicate that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero and below EPA’s ability to detect at this time. The lower the level of PFOA and PFOS, the lower the risk to public health. EPA recommends states, Tribes, territories, and drinking water utilities that detect PFOA and PFOS take steps to reduce exposure. Most uses of PFOA and PFOS were voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers, although there are a limited number of ongoing uses, and these chemicals remain in the environment due to their lack of degradation.
For the first time, EPA is issuing final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS) and for hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt (“GenX” chemicals). In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and PFBS is considered a replacement for PFOS. The GenX chemicals and PFBS health advisory levels are well above the level of detection, based on risk analyses in recent scientific studies. 
The agency’s new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances. EPA encourages states, Tribes, territories, drinking water utilities, and community leaders that find PFAS in their drinking water to take steps to inform residents, undertake additional monitoring to assess the level, scope, and source of contamination, and examine steps to reduce exposure. Individuals concerned about levels of PFAS found in their drinking water should consider actions that may reduce exposure, including installing a home or point of use filter.
Next Steps
EPA is moving forward with proposing a PFAS National Drinking Water Regulation in fall 2022. As EPA develops this proposed rule, the agency is also evaluating additional PFAS beyond PFOA and PFOS and considering actions to address groups of PFAS. The interim health advisories will provide guidance to states, Tribes, and water systems for the period prior to the regulation going into effect. 
The EPA’s work to identify and confront the risks that PFAS pose to human health and the environment is a key component in the Biden-Harris Administration whole-of-government approach to confronting these emerging contaminants. This strategy includes steps by the Food and Drug Administration to increase testing for PFAS in food and packaging, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help dairy farmers address contamination of livestock, and by the Department of Defense to clean-up contaminated military installations and the elimination of unnecessary PFAS uses. 
To receive grant funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, states and territories should submit a letter of intent by August 15, 2022.
To provide the public with more information about these actions, EPA will be hosting a webinar on June 23, 2022, at 12:00 pm Eastern. Learn more or register for the event.
PFAS Strategic Roadmap 
The recent actions achieve another key commitment as the agency implements the October 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap. Under the Roadmap, EPA is working across the agency to protect the public from the health impacts of PFAS. EPA has undertaken a number of actions to deliver progress on PFAS including: 
  • Issuing the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to improve EPA’s understanding of the frequency that 29 PFAS are found in the nation’s drinking water systems and at what levels 
  • Issuing the first Toxic Substances Control Act PFAS test order under the National PFAS Testing Strategy
  • Adding five PFAS to EPA’s contaminated site cleanup tables
  • Publishing draft aquatic life water quality criteria for PFOA and PFOS
  • Issuing a memo to proactively address PFAS in Clean Water Act permitting
  • Publishing a new draft total adsorbable fluorine wastewater method

CDC Examines Ventilation Strategies in Public Schools
A report published last week by CDC focuses on strategies to improve ventilation and indoor air quality in schools. Though “substantial federal resources” are available to improve ventilation in schools, the agency found that schools more frequently employ lower-cost strategies such as inspecting and validating existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and opening doors or windows rather than implementing more resource-intensive strategies. According to the National School COVID-19 Prevention Study, a survey that provides a nationally representative sample of kindergarten through grade 12 (K–12) public schools in the United States, only 38.5 percent of schools have replaced or upgraded their HVAC systems since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even smaller proportions of schools reported the use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems in classrooms (28.2 percent) or areas where students eat (29.8 percent); the study found that these were the strategies least frequently reported among K–12 schools. As improved ventilation can reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases in schools, the report urges public health professionals to support schools’ implementation of resource-intensive strategies to improve ventilation and IAQ.
CDC’s analysis of the survey found that the use of ventilation strategies in schools differed based on location and poverty level. For example, schools located in cities or suburbs were more likely than rural schools to use portable HEPA filtration systems in classrooms. And mid-poverty schools—those with one-quarter to three-quarters of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals—were less likely than higher-poverty-level schools to have replaced or upgraded their HVAC systems, according to the report. CDC found that rural and mid-poverty schools were the least likely to have used resource-intensive ventilation strategies. Researchers posit that one reason mid-poverty schools may be less likely to implement such strategies is that they may have less experience in accessing and using federal funds than higher poverty schools. The report urges public health professionals and others to focus support on schools like these to help facilitate equitable implementation of ventilation strategies requiring more resources.
“Public health professionals and funding agencies can support state and local education agencies and school districts by raising awareness about funding sources and ensuring their equitable distribution,” the report states. “Supplemental training and technical assistance can help schools identify and access applicable funding and understand what types of strategies can improve ventilation.”
The full report can be found in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Portland Contractor Fined $135,000 for Repeated Water Quality Violations
The Washington Department of Ecology has fined 1108 South Hillhurst Subdivision, LLC $135,000 for repeated water quality violations, and failing to meet the requirements of the Construction Stormwater General Permit during construction work at the Vista Ridge PUD subdivision in Ridgefield.
The Portland-based contractor is being fined for repeatedly discharging polluted construction stormwater into a tributary of Gee Creek. The company also failed to follow numerous best management practices required under its Construction Stormwater General Permit, despite being offered technical assistance on at least five separate occasions by Ecology staff.
From September of 2021 through February of 2022, Ecology inspectors documented seven instances of polluted construction stormwater that found its way to a tributary of Gee Creek. Other ongoing permit violations included the company failing to submit discharge monitoring reports, insufficient sediment controls, and unstabilized soils.
Gee Creek is a tributary to the Columbia River and a potential home to cutthroat, steelhead, coho, chum, and fall chinook. Ecology, along with its public and private partners, have been working to improve water quality in the Gee Creek watershed through the Gee Creek Watershed Restoration Plan.
Stormwater runoff from construction sites can carry muddy water and debris into local waterways. Sediments, chemicals, and debris can harm aquatic life and reduce water quality. Ecology requires regulated construction sites like the Vista Ridge PUD subdivision to get coverage under the Construction Stormwater General Permit and comply with the permit’s requirements. 
Frozen Food Manufacturer Cited After Investigation into Worker’s Fatal Fall from Scissor Lift
A U.S. Department of Labor investigation into the fatal fall of a contractor at a Robbinsville frozen food manufacturer identified a wide range of potentially fatal workplace hazards at CJ TMI Manufacturing America LLC, leading OSHA to issue the employer citations for 36 violations and propose $368,513 in penalties.
A contractor suffered fatal injuries in December 2021 when they fell 11 feet while using a scissor lift to replace a freezer drain. OSHA’s investigation found a damaged and inoperable snap hook on the lift’s safety chain and that the company did not inspect the lift before work began.
“CJ TMI Manufacturing America LLC could have prevented this tragedy had it followed proper safety precautions,” said OSHA Area Director Paula Dixon-Roderick in Marlton, New Jersey. “The company must address and correct a substantial number of hazardous conditions identified during our inspection so that nobody else has to risk their life.”
OSHA also found the company exposed workers to:
  • Amputations and lacerations from unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery
  • Explosion hazards from accumulations of combustible flour dust on equipment, floors and surfaces throughout the plant
  • Confined space hazards when entering a wastewater pit to service a water meter
  • Hexavalent chromium hazards during welding operations
  • Chemical burns from caustic chemicals due to inaccessible decontamination showers and eyewash stations
  • Being struck by forklifts operated by untrained employees
  • Numerous electric shock hazards
View the citations. OSHA has placed the company in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
CJ TMI manufactures frozen dumpling, wontons and noodles for the Twin Marquis and Chef One brands.
Mill Fined $18,000 for Water Quality Violations
Water quality violations at the Cosmo Specialty Fibers (Cosmo) mill in Cosmopolis led to an $18,000 penalty from the Washington Department of Ecology. Pollution above permitted levels can negatively impact human health and the environment.
In January 2022, Cosmo exceeded the wastewater pollution limits set in the company’s water quality permit. The violation occurred due to a combination of heavy rain, system upsets, and a temporary disruption to certain parts of mill operations. As a result of these factors, the mill’s wastewater treatment system discharged water with higher levels of organic pollutants, which can contribute to low oxygen levels in the receiving water.
Wastewater from the Cosmo mill is treated before ultimately being discharged to Grays Harbor. Pollution above the limits from the mill’s wastewater can harm aquatic life and reduce water quality. Grays Harbor is home to many aquatic species including salmon, steelhead, and shellfish.
Ecology has previously issued penalties to Cosmo for similar violations, totaling $6,000 since 2015. Over the last few years, Ecology has continued to work with the mill to improve their wastewater treatment system and operational practices. 
TCEQ Approves Fines Totaling $505,046
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently approved penalties totaling $370,621 against 21 regulated entities for violations of state environmental regulations.
Agreed orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: nine air quality, one industrial hazardous waste, two industrial wastewater discharge, two municipal wastewater discharge, one petroleum storage tank, and one public water system.
Default orders were issued for the following enforcement categories: two petroleum tank, two public water system, and one water quality.
In addition, on June 7 and June 14 the executive director approved penalties totaling $134,425 against 45 entities.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
News Links
Trivia Question of the Week