U.S – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)—two pervasive “forever chemicals”—as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as the Superfund Act.

This critical step empowers the EPA to effectively combat PFOA/PFOS contamination, safeguarding public health and the environment.

PFAS exposure poses severe health risks, including cancer, liver and heart damage, and developmental issues in infants and children. Often found in drinking water and food, PFAS contamination stems from environmental uptake.

The EPA’s finalized drinking water standards for PFAS, combined with the designation of PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances, mark a significant stride in mitigating this pervasive threat.

In tandem with the final rule, the EPA introduces a CERCLA enforcement discretion policy, clarifying its focus on parties accountable for PFAS release into the environment. This includes manufacturers, users, federal facilities, and industrial entities. By holding polluters accountable, the EPA aims to expedite cleanups and ensure that the financial burden does not fall on taxpayers.

Under the rule, entities must promptly report releases of PFOA and PFOS exceeding one pound within a 24-hour period to the National Response Center and relevant emergency responders. This swift reporting mechanism enables rapid intervention, preventing further contamination and protecting communities from potential harm.

Ensuring polluters pay for cleanup

The designation of PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances empowers the EPA to utilize robust enforcement measures to compel polluters to bear the costs of investigations and cleanups.

By leveraging this authority, the EPA can expedite remediation efforts, minimizing the spread of contamination and mitigating risks to public health.

The rule will take effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, signaling a swift and decisive response to the PFAS contamination crisis.

With expedited cleanup efforts and enhanced enforcement mechanisms, the EPA is poised to confront PFAS contamination head-on, underscoring its commitment to protecting communities and the environment from the harmful effects of “forever chemicals.”

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