- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a four-step plan to address per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) during the National Leadership Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
- The plan, which will commence following the Summit, will: 1) evaluate the need for a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water; 2) take steps to propose classifying PFOA and PFOS as "hazardous substances"; 3) develop groundwater cleanup recommendations at contamination sites; and 4) develop toxicity values for GenX and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).
- PFAS, commonly found in industry and consumer products such as non-stick cookware and firefighting foams, is considered a public health concern as possibly carcinogenic, with reported increases in prostate and kidney cancer to people who live near PFOA facilities.
The EPA's move toward classifying PFAS as "hazardous" may lead to a larger scale industry cleanup — as well as impact potential landfill expansion — made necessary by the nature of the compound. PFAS has led to contamination in various landfills and multiple military sites that often use the firefighting foams for military exercises.
According to Superfund law, the Superfund liability is triggered when substances found at sites are deemed hazardous, there is a release of the substance, response costs have been incurred and the defendant is the liable party. Such liability carries a strict standard (making negligence or adherence to industry standard moot), retroactive despite the 1980 enactment of the law, and joint and several — meaning, any party even partly responsible is held responsible in full.
In the state of New York, the Town of Colonie landfill — operated by Waste Connections — recently received all necessary permits by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to expand, even as the original expansion was scaled back from 105 acres to 93 acres and two 500,000-gallon leachate storage tanks would be constructed to move away from the current open storage system. The changes came in part due to concerns about PFOA contamination in the river, as past town-commissioned studies revealed low levels of contamination, though still below the 70 parts per trillion EPA threshold.
In New Hampshire, the state's branch of the Conservation Law Fund (CLF) decided the state has the authority to order the Coakley Landfill Group (CLG) in North Hampton to clean up the PFAS chemicals found in its landfill. Even as the link between PFAS contamination and illness is argued by interested parties to be tenuous at best and specious at worst, the New Hampshire Superfund site, earmarked by Pruitt as a priority — though not actually targeted for action — may have helped precipitate the action plan put forth by the EPA.