The more controversial provisions around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were stripped from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was signed into law last week.
For some lawmakers, the main setback was that NDAA targeted the military, which reportedly has 425 sites that have been contaminated with PFAS after exercises involving the heavy use of firefighting foam, The Hill reports.
According to The Hill, lawmakers were uncomfortable with addressing the issue beyond the military, particularly as they debated how to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate PFAS in drinking water.
Bloomberg Environment notes that unlike earlier versions of the NDAA, the final enacted bill does not:
- Designate any PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
- Require the EPA to list PFAS on the Clean Water Act toxic pollutant list, nor does it require the agency to publish enforceable standards for PFAS.
- Direct the EPA to set a national drinking water standard for any PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
However, Bloomberg Environment points out that key PFAS provisions in NDAA include the following:
- At military installations, the final bill prohibits the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS after October 1, 2024, and immediately prohibits usage in training exercises.
- Immediate addition of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and certain other PFAS or classes of PFAS—including GenX—to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Facilities that manufacture, process or use listed PFAS in quantities of more than 100 pounds per year would be required annually to report their releases (including disposals) of such PFAS. The addition of these PFAS to the TRI becomes effective on January 1, 2020; covered facilities must therefore report their calendar year 2020 PFAS releases by July 1, 2021.
- SDWA monitoring by most public water systems for PFAS and classes of PFAS for which the EPA has validated a method of measuring levels in drinking water.
Michael E. Hoffman, managing director and group head of diversified industrials at Stifel, released a report that projects PFAS will ultimately have a polychlorinated biphenyls-like outcome (long steady activity of cleanups and changes in operating behavior) versus asbestos (the cleanup was deemed more dangerous than capping and leaving in place).
Stifel notes that EPA recently formalized a screening level of 40 parts per trillion (ppt) to determine if PFOA and/or PFOS are present at a site. If so, it could warrant further attention, with EPA’s PFOA and PFOS Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory level of 70 ppt set as the preliminary remediation goal for contaminated groundwater.
“PFOA and PFOS are no longer produced. However, in the latest defense authorization bill, the administration has put in place several requirements for EPA and DOD [Department of Defense], which force incorporation of PFAS compounds (those now widely still in use) into a stronger regulatory framework,” noted Stifel.
Read Stifel’s full report, “Federal Funding Bill Early Xmas Presents: CNG Tax Credits and PFAS Timelines,” here.