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MassDEP to Focus on Regulating Only Specific PFAS Compounds

MassDEP will develop a drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in response to the Conservation Law Foundation’s October 25, 2018 petition, which we reported on earlier. While MassDEP largely rejected the petition’s specific requests, including a call for an emergency interim MCL, MassDEP’s January 28, 2019 response instead outlined a broader, longer-term plan to address PFAS substances in drinking water.

Although MassDEP will establish a drinking water MCL for PFAS, it will not do so for PFAS as a class, as suggested by some stakeholders. Instead, MassDEP will focus on a subset of PFAS compounds that are a threat to human health, are detectable, and can be treated with available technology. MassDEP identified these compounds as PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFNA. In explaining its decision to narrow the regulatory scope, MassDEP cited the significant expense of treating drinking water for PFAS contamination, how little is known about the vast majority of the more than 3,000 PFAS compounds, and the limited treatment technologies available.

MassDEP’s response also acknowledged a plan to develop reportable concentrations and cleanup standards for PFAS under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan. MassDEP will work with the Waste Site Cleanup Advisory Committee to develop a regulatory approach, as well as solicit public comment.

The petition, and several stakeholders at the public meeting on January 18, 2019, requested MassDEP begin statewide testing for PFAS contamination in drinking water. In its response, MassDEP promised to develop a “targeted sampling program” to test public water sources near known or potential sources of PFAS contamination. The public will be informed of future testing via online posts.

MassDEP noted that its approach to developing the new PFAS regulations will evolve. The department committed to engaging stakeholders and monitoring the growth of PFAS-related scientific knowledge. MassDEP did not provide a timeline for the drinking water MCL rulemaking process.

Regulation of PFAS was also in the national news this week. According to multiple news outlets, the U.S. EPA has decided not to regulate PFOA and PFOS via the Safe Drinking Water Act. There is no national MCL for any other compound in the PFAS class either. With no national standard on the horizon and growing public concern, more states may decide to pursue their own regulatory solutions.

    © 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 30



    About this Author

    Jeanine L.G. Grachuk Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA

    Jeanine is a top-rated Massachusetts environmental lawyer with extensive experience in air, water, and waste issues arising within a variety of industrial sectors.

    Solving puzzles is what Jeanine enjoys most about environmental law. She likes taking a complicated set of facts hidden in environmental reports and unpacking the information until the key legal issues are revealed.

    When providing advice to clients, Jeanine listens for what they need—whether it’s a quick and actionable answer, a trusted counselor, or a gut check—in addition to their legal questions. She also...

    Dylan J. King Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA

    Dylan uses his legal and business skills to help clients solve problems.

    He maintains a diverse environmental litigation and regulatory practice, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors. He has developed experience with solid waste facility siting, pipeline and hazardous material transportation regulations, site contamination litigation, and local zoning matters. Dylan joined the firm following his graduation from Vermont Law School with a certificate in Energy Law.

    During his time at Vermont Law School, Dylan worked with the Vermont Law School Energy Clinic...