Proposed Rules for PFAS and Other Emerging Chemicals of Concern

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced the latest efforts to protect communities and the environment from the health risks posed by certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are long-lasting chemicals that break down very slowly over time, and they have been used in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products. USEPA proposes two rules to tackle PFAS pollution across the country.

The first proposed rule, Definition of Hazardous Waste Applicable to Corrective Action from Solid Waste Management Units, would modify the definition of hazardous waste as it applies to cleanups at permitted hazardous waste facilities. This modification would assure USEPA’s regulations clearly reflect the authorities of USEPA and authorized States to require cleanup of the full range of substances that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) intended, including emerging chemicals of concern, such as PFAS. USEPA says currently, the regulations do not clearly and accurately reflect the full authority granted to the regulatory agency by Congress.    

USEPA also proposes to amend the RCRA regulations through Listing of Specific PFAS as Hazardous Constituents. The identified PFAS compounds would be added to the list of substances identified for consideration in facility assessments and, where necessary, further investigation and cleanup through the corrective action process at hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

The proposed rules would strengthen protections for communities and drinking water supplies located near the 1,740 permitted hazardous waste facilities across the nation. Corrective action under RCRA requires facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste to protect health and the environment by investigating and cleaning up hazardous releases into soil, groundwater, surface water, and air. Hazardous waste cleanups are a crucial part of USEPA’s focus on environmental justice and help to protect public health in part by addressing disparities in access to a clean and safe environment.

The “Definition of Hazardous Waste Applicable to Corrective Action from Solid Waste Management Units” proposal is published on the Federal Register with a public comment deadline of March 11, 2024. The “Listing of Specific PFAS as Hazardous Constituents” proposed rule will be open for public comment on the Federal Register until April 8, 2024.