EPA Memo Confirms Pending NPDES Plan to Monitor PFAS
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on Nov. 30, 2020, describing recommendations from the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Regional Coordinators Committee titled "Interim Strategy for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Federally Issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits." While EPA's press release identified this as a "new interim strategy," readers of Holland & Knight's Energy and Natural Resources Blog will recognize plans to include PFAS monitoring in NPDES permits that emerged during the summer when EPA Region 1 and Massachusetts began issuing draft NPDES permits which contained such requirements.
Specifically, draft permits for wastewater treatment and other industrial facilities located in Massachusetts contain monitoring requirements for six PFAS compounds: Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA). This reporting requirement for the listed PFAS parameters takes effect six months after EPA's multi-lab validated method for wastewater is made available to the public on EPA's Clean Water Act (CWA) methods program website for Other Clean Water Act Test Methods Not Approved Under 40 CFR Part 136, which is expected in 2021. For these facilities, Massachusetts also included similar requirements in the corresponding draft state-issued permits as well as its state water quality certifications for the federally issued permits. Although none of these draft permits have been finalized yet, given the coordinated approach between Region 1 and Massachusetts it is likely that the first EPA-issued NPDES permits to require PFAS monitoring will come out of Region 1 for facilities located in Massachusetts.
In addition, based on comments filed by Massachusetts and New Mexico on EPA's draft Multi-Sector General Permit, it is entirely possible that similar monitoring requirements will appear in that permit, at least for certain Sectors, when it is finalized in January 2021. The recommendations do not distinguish between individual and general permits, and apply to both direct and indirect dischargers, including both point source wastewater discharges and stormwater pollutant control, so we can expect to see broad application across EPA-issued permits. Lastly, the memorandum also describes EPA's efforts to further information sharing among stakeholders including on the NPDES Writers' Clearinghouse, although it will be several more months before such resources are developed.