April 13, 2022
ASHEVILLE, NC — The heads of some state and territorial environment agencies are raising concerns about the potential widespread liability impacts of EPA’s plan to classify two well-known per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as Superfund “hazardous substances,” a concern a top official says the agency is grappling with.
During the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) spring meeting earlier this month, several state environmental leaders echoed concerns raised by drinking water and wastewater utilities, which have urged the White House to exempt them from liability for PFAS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
One of the unique things about wastewater treatment plants is that they are passively accepting PFAS, Todd Rettig, deputy director Illinois EPA, said during an April 5 roundtable discussion at the ECOS meeting. “It’s a little overwhelming to think how” their liability “could expand” under a CERCLA hazardous substance listing for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), he said.
Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Tony Hatton referenced EPA’s plans to regulate PFAS under multiple environmental statutes and asked, “How are we going to absorb” all of these regulations?
Hatton noted that many solid waste landfills in Kentucky already will not accept sewage sludge, in part due to the volume that is generated, and this is already a significant issue for municipalities. A CERCLA listing could limit disposal options ever further.
New Mexico’s ‘Situation’
New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary Jim Kenney urged the other states, “Don’t get in the situation where we’re in,” where PFAS from the use of firefighting foam at Air Force bases contaminated groundwater used by dairy farms, contaminating the cows’ milk. When PFAS contamination requires emergency legislation and regulatory actions, it is more expensive to fix, Kenney said.