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EPA addresses implications of new PFAS advisories, future regulations

PFAS foam

The toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS are not regulated at the federal level - at least not yet.

But new EPA advisories - that say PFAS are more dangerous than once thought - will change how communities respond to the chemicals in drinking water.

In a public webinar today, EPA representatives explained about what the advisories will mean for future regulation.

Zach Schafer is EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, Radhika Fox. He said the advisories are only one avenue to tackle this complex issue.

“It’s important to note there are many other actions taking place at EPA," he said. "One is our work to propose regulating PFOA and PFOS under our superfund law known as CERCLA. That will help allow communities, among other things, to help recover the cost of cleanup and remediation from polluters and hold polluters accountable.”

Schafer said agencies like the Department of Defense are increasing clean-up around facilities. The US Department of Agriculture, he said, is also working to reduce PFAS in beef and dairy.

The new advisories for PFAS in drinking water are low - far lower than some lab equipment can detect. This was another concern addressed at the webinar.

Eric Burneson is the Director of the Standards and Risk Management Division at the Office of Water. He said expanding the ability of lab testing is a research priority for the EPA.

“EPA and our colleagues in the Office of Research and Development are working to improve the analytical methods both to be able to detect more PFAS, but also to improve the analytical precision, to lower the concentrations we can actually measure,” Burneson said.

Health advisories are a recommendation of what levels are safe for human health, but they are not enforceable or regulatory.

The EPA will announce its proposed PFAS standards later this fall. If approved, these standards will be regulatory.

The EPA is now offering $1 billion dollars in grant funding for communities facing PFAS contamination.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.