October 25, 2021

Volume XI, Number 298

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October 25, 2021

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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

  • the initiation of detailed studies of PFAS discharges from the Landfills and Textile Mills categories.

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.

©2021 CMBG3 Law, LLC. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 271
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About this Author

John Gardella Environmental Law Attorney CMBG3 Law Firm
Shareholder

John Gardella is a Shareholder at CMBG3 Law in Boston, a law firm specializing in the regulatory, litigation, and compliance aspects of numerous environmental and toxic torts issues. He is a member of the firm’s PFAS Team, which counsels clients on PFAS related issues ranging from state violations to remediation litigation. Mr. Gardella has over 15 years of experience litigating environmental and toxic torts matters, including asbestos, PFAS, benzene, lead paint, mold, talc, hazardous waste and pollution matters. He is a successful trial attorney with over 75 verdicts to...

617-279-8225
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