EPA Updates NPDES Guidance on PFAS
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox issued a memorandum on April 28, 2022, addressing EPA's revised guidance for addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits where EPA is the permit issuer and control authority. The memorandum supersedes a Nov. 22, 2020, memorandum that was the subject of a previous Holland & Knight blog post (see "EPA Memo Confirms Pending NPDES Plan to Monitor PFAS," Dec. 15, 2020). Through its latest memorandum, EPA continues its efforts outlined in the October 2021 PFAS Strategic Roadmap by leveraging NPDES permitting to reduce PFAS discharges to waterways.
As forecast in the Strategic Roadmap, the memorandum relies on draft analytical method 1633 to recommend monitoring of 40 detectable PFAS parameters at least quarterly for industrial dischargers. For individual permits issued in Massachusetts, where EPA is the permitting authority, PFAS monitoring of six PFAS compounds has been a requirement since July 2020, to be implemented once publication of an EPA-validated method occurs. (For information concerning these permits, see Holland & Knight's previous blog post, "MassDEP Seeks to Impose Its PFAS Monitoring Requirements in NPDES Permits," July 15, 2020). Monitoring requirements are also recommended for publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), and POTWs are required to update their industrial user data for pretreatment control evaluation to include PFAS considerations.
In addition, the April 28 memorandum makes recommendations for permit conditions including best management practices (BMPs) based on pollution prevention and source reduction. These recommendations are consistent with EPA's Industrial Stormwater Fact Sheets, which were all revised in February 2021 as part of the 2021 Multi-Sector General Permit (in lieu of the proposed Appendix Q). (See Holland & Knight's previous alert, "EPA Finalizes 2021 Multi-Sector General Permit," Jan. 27, 2021, for a description of that permitting process.) EPA sought public comment on these Industrial Stormwater Fact Sheets recently, but no changes have been announced at this time.
Lastly, all of this comes while EPA is considering new Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards (ELGs) for the organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fibers point source categories as described in EPA's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) issued on March 17, 2021, and its Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 issued in September 2021. According to the ANPR docket, almost 30,000 comments have been received to date, indicating the public interest in this subject. EPA's Strategic Roadmap indicates this multifaceted program is ongoing, but it expects to make significant progress in its ELG regulatory work by the end of 2024. In the meantime, the April 28 memorandum provides specific guidance and expectations for NPDES permits going forward.