PFAS Wastewater Discharge Regulations Take Step Forward
On September 14, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15, which it is required to publish biennially under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for new effluent limitations guidelines. Plan 15 announces numerous actions with respect to PFAS that aim to regulate wastewater discharges that contain PFAS in several industry types. Plan 15 reflects a significant continued interest by the EPA to continue its study of wastewater discharge data, but also the beginning of PFAS wastewater discharge limitations. Companies in several industries must immediately familiarize themselves with Plan 15 and understand that PFAS wastewater discharge limitations enacted by the EPA will have enormous impacts on requirements placed on business.
PFAS Wastewater Discharge Under Plan 15
The EPA’s Preliminary Plan 15 includes a number of significant actions, including:
the beginning of a rulemaking to revise limitations for the Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers (OCPSF) category to address the discharge of PFAS from facilities that manufacture PFAS;
the initiation of a rulemaking to revise limitations for the Metal Finishing category to address PFAS discharges from chromium plating operations;
the completion of its detailed study of the Meat and Poultry Products category and initiation of a rulemaking to revise the existing discharge standards for the industry;
the intention to publish a proposed Supplemental Rulemaking for the Steam Electric Power Generating category; and
Plan 15, in conjunction with the EPA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in early 2021 soliciting data from PFAS manufacturers regarding PFAS levels contained in wastewater discharges, reflects the growing interest in the EPA in targeting PFAS wastewater discharges as a priority regulatory action.
Preliminary Plan 15 will be open for public comment for 30 days from the date that it is published in the Federal Register.
Implications On Businesses
The rulemaking proposed under Plan 15 is expected to take several years to complete. However, businesses are well-advised to begin preparing now for the changes that are likely in a few years. The EPA’s intent based on the plans outlined in Preliminary Plan 15 is to enact a robust reporting and wastewater discharge limitation system for a wide variety of industry types. More industry types can and likely will be added by the EPA as time goes on.
Businesses must ensure that their compliance programs are accounting for all aspects of operations that may be impacted by the EPA’s PFAS wastewater discharge regulations. Companies should ensure that they have robust data collection programs in place to ensure a seamless transition to the EPA’s future reporting requirements. Companies should also consider providing public comment to the EPA on the proposals under Preliminary Plan 15, including considerations regarding sharing data to support comment positions. Pubic comment provides industry with an avenue for sharing concerns regarding the challenges that companies will face when PFAS wastewater discharge regulations are enacted.