Navigating the Changing Landscape of PFAS Regulation: Updates from the EPA and State Initiatives

Navigating the Changing Landscape of PFAS Regulation: Updates from the EPA and State Initiatives

“The EPA has taken several steps to use Clean Water Act permitting and regulatory authorities to restrict PFAS—including developing rules under the Effluent Limitations Guidelines program to limit PFAS discharges to waterways from PFAS manufacturers, metal finishers, and landfills.”—December 2023 EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap; Second Annual Report.

While Federal guidance and regulations are still in development, a number of the individual states are either pointing towards, or taking early action on issues which include SPEDES, sludge disposal and biosolids.  The federal government is considering rulemaking under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) which could have far reaching impacts on wastewater utilities.  From the roadmap, “One proposed rule would designate certain PFAS as  ‘hazardous constituents’ under RCRA, which would make these PFAS subject to investigation and cleanup activities at permitted hazardous waste facilities.”

In New York, for example, the Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) issued effluent limitations on ambient water guidance values and groundwater as a means to regulate industrial discharge into New York State waters. However, there does not currently exist a comparable strategy for regulating POTWs, which receive discharge from upstream (rather than produce it) and are typically not designed to treat for these emerging contaminants.

“Although there are currently no federally established technology-based standards related to these contaminants, the Department [NYSDEC] is aware of treatment technologies currently available which 1) are capable of achieving local limits to prevent passthrough or interference (i.e. sludge disposal) and 2) meet any final effluent limitations, to be derived from the GVs, in the SPDES permits for the POTWs.”

In New Jersey, State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. Latourette issued an Executive Order (2023-01), which, among other issues, states,

“WHEREAS, due to the risks that PFAS pose to public health and safety and the environment, the Department has and must continue to proactively evaluate and reduce potential sources [of] PFAS, including, but not limited to, evaluating the presence of PFAS in wastewater discharges and considering requirements for the reduction of PFAS in such discharges…” as part of plan to collect data related to PFAS at Wastewater Treatment Plants.

While impacts may be incrementally different from state to state, it is relatively clear that wastewater and other related professionals should evaluate potential the impacts these types of regulations can have on their treatment and operations.  H2M continuously monitors the regulatory landscape and is available to discuss specifics that may relate to your system.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our experts if we can provide assistance.