EPA Announces Permitting Strategy to Address PFAS

EPA Announces Permitting Strategy to Address PFAS

December 2, 2020

On November 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a strategy to include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) testing in wastewater permits. The announcement also made available information on the agency's progress in developing analytical methods to test for PFAS compounds in wastewater and other environmental media. These two actions are expected to work together to incorporate enforceable wastewater monitoring for PFAS into certain permits as soon as validated analytical methods are finalized.

In a memorandum to EPA Regional Administrators, Assistant Administrator David P. Ross detailed an interim National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting strategy that incorporates recommendations from a cross-agency workgroup to include PFAS-related conditions in EPA-issued NPDES Permits. EPA is the permitting authority for three states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico), the District of Columbia, most U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, Indian Country, and certain federal facilities.

The workgroup recommendations are to:

  • Include permit requirements for phased-in monitoring and best management practices when PFAS  are expected to be present in point source wastewater discharges
  • include permit requirements for phased-in monitoring and stormwater pollutant control when PFAS are expected to be present in stormwater discharges
  • continue the workgroup that brought these recommendations and share information on permitting practices through a PFAS permitting compendium and an information sharing platform for frequent and timely communication with states and other partners.

EPA is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop analytical methods for testing a list of 40 PFAS in wastewater and other environmental media such as soils. This is in addition to the current Methods 533 and 537.1  approved for testing 29 PFAS in drinking water. The agency anticipates that validation will be finalized in 2021.

E&E News reported that some criticize EPA for using a voluntary approach and moving too slowly to develop methods to detect more than 9,200 PFAS. These critics want to see faster action and mandatory limits. An unnamed former EPA official called it a promising first step that the Biden administration could build on to include effluent limits for industries to reduce PFAS discharges. The current strategy includes PFAS monitoring, but not discharge limits.


EPA News Release on New Interim Strategy 
New Interim Strategy Will Address PFAS Through Certain EPA-Issued Wastewater Permits • EPA Headquarters • November 30, 2020

EPA Memorandum RE: Interim Strategy for NPDES Permits 
MEMORANDUM From David P. Ross to Regional Administrators • Recommendations from the PFAS NPDES Regional Coordinators Committee

E&E News Article 
EPA pitches PFAS strategy. Could it help Biden? • EA Crunden and Hannah Northey • E&E News reporters • Tuesday, December 1, 2020