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Federal PFAS Drinking Water Standards: 2023 Is the Year
Tuesday, January 3, 2023

On Friday, October 7, 2022, the EPA formally sent its proposed federal PFAS drinking water standards to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for consideration and approval or rejection. The proposed rule cleared OMB review on November 30, 2022; however, the EPA has not yet released the proposed rule. While the details of the rule under consideration are not yet known, what is evident from the title of the document logged on the OMB website is that the drinking water standards will address PFOA and PFOS. At least from the document title, it does not appear that any other PFAS will be subject to Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulation at the moment.

The delay in releasing the proposed drinking water standards for over a month now, though, could suggest that the proposed rule may seek to regulate more than just PFOA and PFOS, and the EPA may be looking to shore up language and support language in the proposed rule for such a proposal in light of comments from the OMB. Similarly, many wonder whether the EPA proposed a limit so low that the OMB had concerns as to whether the limits were detectable. With the EPA keeping its proposed language a closely guarded secret for the time being, much of the discussions rest on speculation. What we do know is that he EPA is statutorily required to put forth a proposed standard before the first half of 2023, and it has publicly pledged repeatedly to act more quickly than that statutory requirements.

Thus, 2023 will see federal PFAS drinking water standards for at least two PFAS from the EPA and we predict that it is only a matter of days before the country sees the EPA’s proposal, which will kick off what promises to be an extremely contentious public comment period.

Now more than ever, the EPA is clearly on a path to regulate PFAS contamination in the country’s water, land and air. These regulations will require states to act, as well (and some states may still enact stronger regulations than the EPA). Both the federal and the state level regulations will impact businesses and industries of many kinds, even if their contribution to drinking water contamination issues may seem on the surface to be de minimus. In states that already have PFAS drinking water standards enacted, businesses and property owners have already seen local environmental agencies scrutinize possible sources of PFAS pollution much more closely than ever before, which has resulted in unexpected costs. Beyond drinking water, though, the EPA PFAS Roadmap from 2021 shows the EPA’s desire to take regulatory action well beyond just drinking water, and companies absolutely must begin preparing now for regulatory actions that will have significant financial impacts down the road.

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