September 5, 2018

House Committee to Review Latest PFAS Developments

Holland & Knight Energy and Natural Resources Blog
Dianne R. Phillips | Deborah E. Barnard

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing on per-fluorinated chemical contamination on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a health advisory for two PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) at 0.070 micrograms per liter (μg/L) or 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Thereafter, EPA convened a national summit on May 22-23, 2018, with state stakeholders and launched an initiative to evaluate PFAS concerns. This hearing seeks an update of those efforts, among other things.

According to the staff briefing paper, there will be two panels of witnesses. The first includes two representatives of the federal government reporting on the progress of previously announced federal initiatives, including Peter Grevatt, Director, Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ms. Maureen Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). As we recently reported, there is a lot happening at EPA on the PFAS front and Congress rightfully has called for an update.

Based on data collected from EPA’s third unregulated contaminant monitoring rule (UCMR 3) completed in 2016, approximately 6 million residents of the United States served by 66 public water systems had drinking water with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS, separately or combined, above the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory and drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75 percent of detections, including, by order of frequency of detection, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois.

It will be interesting to learn about the DoD efforts as those have not been widely reported. Among the topics this hearing is intended to cover is whether the parties responsible for contamination are addressing meaningfully the cleanup of PFAS contamination and the damage to local drinking water systems. There are confirmed PFAS concerns at 70 Federal Facility National Priority List (NPL) sites and known or suspected PFAS contamination at 140 DoD sites as well as hundreds of other potential non-federal sites. While detailed information is not likely, given the scope of the problem, it is important to learn what EPA and DoD are doing about these sites. 

The second panel consists of witnesses from trade organizations and environmental advocates including from the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, the National Resources Defense Council, Clean Cape Fear and the Michigan Governor’s PFAS Action Response Team. Some of these groups have also filed comments in the open EPA docket EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0270 as we previously reported.  

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