This bill — the PFAS Action Act of 2021 — would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator to designate all perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund) within one year of this legislation’s enactment. The EPA would also be required to review all other PFAS chemicals over a five-year period and decide whether to list them under Superfund.
A narrow exemption from CERCLA liability is granted to the owners and operators of airports using PFAS firefighting foam pursuant to federal requirements for the use of such foam as long as all regulations for safe handling are followed.
Additionally, this bill would require comprehensive testing of hazards posed by PFAS exposure in land, air, and water (including drinking water), as well as in products within six months of enactment. A final rule would be issued within two years of enactment. PFAS have been used in industrial and consumer products since the 1950s in uses such as non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics & carpets, cosmetics, firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.
This bill would also establish a five-year moratorium on the introduction of new PFAS into commerce while test data for existing PFAS is developed. It would also prohibit the introduction into commerce of PFAS chemicals under review-exemptions, such as the low volume exemption (LVE). This moratorium would have no effect on the sale or use of drugs or medical devices, as drugs and medical devices are exempt from all regulations under TSCA.
The EPA would be required to promulgate a drinking water standard for PFAS that protects vulnerable and disproportionately exposed subpopulations. At a minimum, the standard would cover PFOA and PFOS; it could cover additional PFAS at the EPA Administrator’s discretion. This bill would grant a five-year grace period during which water systems in violation of the PFAS drinking water standard would not be fined; after that point, they would be subject to financial penalties for noncompliance. To help water systems implement treatment changes to remove PFAS for their water, this bill would authorize $550 million over FY 2022-2026 for this purpose.
The EPA administrator would identify variance technologies for public water systems serving a population of 10,000 or fewer but more than 3,300; a population of 3,300 or fewer but more than 500; and a population of 500 or fewer but more than 25. At least 25% of state loan funds would be set aside for small and disadvantaged communities, including public water systems serving fewer than 25,000 persons. At least 15% of state loan funds would be set aside for public water systems which regularly serve fewer than 10,000 people
The EPA administrator would be required to promulgate a rule adding PFOA and its salts and PFOS and its salts to the list of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act (CAA). This bill would also set a five-year deadline for the EPA to determine whether other PFAS should also be listed as hazardous air pollutants and a one-year deadline for the EPA to issue a rule identifying major source categories of PFAS under the CAA.
Within one year of this bill’s enactment, the EPA would publish an interim guidance on the destruction & disposal of PFAS, while the waste incineration of PFAS would be prohibited.
Additionally, the EPA would establish a labeling standard to identify pots, pans, cooking utensils, carpets, rugs, clothing, upholstered furniture, and stain-, water-, or grease-resistant coatings that don’t contain PFAS under the Safer Choice Program.
The EPA administration would be required to consult with the head of the U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and other relevant Federal agencies to issue guidance for first responders to minimize their exposure to firefighting foam and other related equipment that may contain PFAS chemicals. “Covered first responders” may include firefighters, police officers, para- medics, emergency medical technicians, and others.
The EPA Administrator would be required to investigate methods and means to prevent contamination of surface waters, including source waters used for drinking water purposes, by a group of ten PFAS known as “GenX.”
This bill would prohibit owners or operators of industrial facilities that emit wastewater from including PFAS in their effluent without prior disclosure to the relevant water treatment. The industrial source’s owner or operator would be required to notify the owner or operator of the applicable treatment works of the identity of the PFAS, whether the PFAS are susceptible to treatment by the treatment works, and whether the PFAS would interfere with the treatment works’ operation.
The EPA Administrator would be required to establish a website with information relating to the testing of household well water, and to develop a risk-communication strategy to inform the public about the hazards of PFAS.
This legislation would make U.S. territories eligible for financial assistance designated for addressing emerging contaminants such as PFAS.
The EPA Administrator would be required to promulgate a rule establishing effluent limitations and pretreatment standards for the introduction or discharge of PFAS. To provide financial assistance to owners and operators of publicly owned treatment works to implement a PFAS pretreatment standard, this bill would authorize $200 million a year from FY 2022-2026.