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EPA Releases PFAS Screening Levels and Remediation Goals for Public Comment

EPA has released draft interim groundwater screening levels and preliminary remediation goals (PRG) for PFAS where the groundwater is a current or potential source of drinking water. These draft levels are only for two PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS.

For a quick background on PFAS, see our prior blog post, “Fast Facts: What is PFAS?”

The draft interim screening level is 40 parts per trillion (ppt) for each compound individually. As stated by EPA, “screening” is “the process of identifying and defining areas, contaminants, and conditions at a particular site that may warrant further attention.” They are not technically cleanup levels per se, but indicate that further risk assessment activities are warranted.

The draft PRG is set at the current health advisory level of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS combined. EPA states that PRGs can be adjusted based on site-specific information, but also: “In situations where groundwater is being used for drinking water, EPA expects that responsible parties will address levels of PFOA and/or PFOS over 70 ppt.”

It’s important to note that this PRG is applicable only where no state or tribal drinking water standard or other applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (ARARs) exist. For states that set their own drinking water standard or set a standard for PFAS compounds other than PFOA and PFOS, the state criteria would be used to establish the PRG.

While the screening level and PRG are by no means drinking water standards established under the Safe Drinking Water Act, it will be interesting to see how these draft values from EPA will affect regulatory developments in states, like Michigan, that are working towards setting their own maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFAS compounds. It will also be interesting to see the Department of Defense’s reaction, as it has recently communicated its position that the unacceptable risk for cleanup of groundwater impacted by PFOA and PFOS is approximately 380 ppt—more than five times than what EPA has proposed.

EPA first announced that it was developing groundwater cleanup recommendations in May 2018, following its national PFAS leadership summit. EPA confirmed that it was taking this action in its PFAS Action Plan, released on February 14. EPA also has stated it is reviewing designating PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances, and it is notable that EPA has released these draft values before making that designation.

Additionally, EPA’s prior statements were related generally to groundwater, but the draft levels the agency announced on April 25 appear to only pertain to groundwater that is or could be used as drinking water. Importantly, EPA only has an approved PFAS analytical method for drinking water; it is reportedly working on methods for other matrices, including groundwater, but the agency has yet to publish other methods for review.

The draft interim screening levels and PRGs are available for public comment for 45 days, with the comment period expiring on June 10, 2019.

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About this Author

Tammy Helminski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Environmental Law Attorney
Associate

Tammy L. Helminski is an associate in the Grand Rapids office of Barnes & Thornburg, and a member of the firm’s Environmental Law Department. Ms. Helminski has experience with environmental due diligence and risk evaluation, project management of large-scale remediation sites involving numerous parties, and assisting manufacturing and developer clients with environmental auditing and compliance. Her litigation experience includes representing clients in cases involving CERCLA, NEPA, RCRA and NREPA, as well as product liability, mold, asbestos, construction and contract litigation...

616-742-3926
Jeffrey Longsworth, Barnes Thornburg Law Frim, Washington DC, Environmental Law Attorney
Partner

Jeffrey S. Longsworth is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and the D.C. administrator of the Environmental Department, which was recently recognized as Tier 1 for national environmental litigation in the annual "Best Law Firms" ranking by U.S. News and Best Lawyers. He is involved in counseling and litigating issues that arise under federal environmental laws and regulations, with an emphasis on Clean Water Act matters, especially issues involving permitting, stormwater, effluent limitations guidelines, enforcement, inspections and spill prevention.

Mr. Longsworth was appointed to the EPA Federal Advisory Committee on Urban Wet Weather Flows, which was established in 1996. He frequently teaches environmental law courses around the country, and serves as editorial advisor to several industry publications. He has served on the Montgomery County (Maryland) Water Quality Advisory Board.

Mr. Longsworth serves as special environmental counsel to numerous national trade associations, industries, coalitions and state/municipal government agencies before federal and state regulatory and enforcement authorities. He works closely within the federal rulemaking process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration, and White House Office of Management and Budget, to name a few. Mr. Longsworth also works closely with many state regulatory agencies and advises clients and the firm’s legislative team on environmental issues arising under federal legislation.

Mr. Longsworth graduated from Amherst College in 1984 and received his J.D. in 1991 from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, where he served as a member of the Law Review.

Mr. Longsworth is admitted to practice in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th, 7th, and 9th Circuits.

202-408-6918