May 25, 2018 - On May 22nd and 23rd, EPA held a National Leadership Summit, which included representatives from over 40 states, tribes, and territories; 20 Federal agencies; Congressional staff; associations and other industry groups, on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). WEF staff and members were in attendance.

Administrator Scott Pruitt spoke on the first day of the two-day summit and released EPA’s four-step action plan to decide whether EPA should set legal limits in drinking water of PFAS chemicals:

  • EPA will initiate steps to evaluate the need for a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS. We will convene our federal partners and examine everything we know about PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
  • EPA is beginning the necessary steps to propose designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” through one of the available statutory mechanisms, including potentially CERCLA Section 102.
  • EPA is currently developing groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS at contaminated sites and will complete this task by fall of this year. 
  • EPA is taking action in close collaboration with our federal and state partners to develop toxicity values for GenX and PFBS.

During the summit, attendees worked together to:

  • Share information on ongoing efforts to characterize risks from PFAS and develop monitoring and treatment/cleanup techniques
  • Identify specific near-term actions, beyond those already underway, that are needed to address challenges currently facing states and local communities
  • Develop risk communication strategies that will help communities to address public concerns with PFAS

EPA is planning to travel to various states with communities impacted by PFAS, including Michigan and New Hampshire, and plans to develop a PFAS Management Plan for release later this year. 

However, some are worried EPA will not act quickly enough or won’t do anything at all.  They note Pruitt's speech leaned heavily on phrases like taking "steps" to "evaluate" issues, leaving some unclear on exactly what would happen next. "It was pretty clear to me that EPA has not actually decided to do anything specific that will be meaningful at this point," said Erik Olson, who heads the Natural Resources Defense Council's health program. (Politico, 5/24/18)

Some Members of Congress including Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), whose district includes Flint, MI, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) all expressed some level of concern.  “Our communities deserve answers, and the EPA seems to be doing everything in its control to block the public from getting then,” Shea Porter said of the closed-door summit. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito has also put pressure on the EPA over PFAS. Asked if she’s pleased with how EPA is handling the issue, she said, “I’m not totally pleased, no, but I want to find out what kind of levels are acceptable and remediate the problems.”

As for whether she has confidence in Pruitt’s handling, she said, “I think time will tell, honestly.” (The Hill, 5/25/2018)

You can view the agenda, watch Administrator Pruitt speak, see photos, and read more about the event here.

About This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington is an online news portal from the Water Environment Federation that provides updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments that affect the water and wastewater communities. It provides concise reports of related bills, regulations, legal decisions, congressional hearings, and other federal government actions, following key issues from introduction to final determination.

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This Week in Washington is compiled by the WEF Government Affairs department. Please contact us with any questions or comments.

Claudio Ternieden
Senior Director of Government Affairs & Strategic Partnerships

Amy Kathman
Government Affairs Specialist

Steve Dye
Legislative Director