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U.S. EPA Seeks Comments On Draft Interim Recommendations For Addressing Emerging Contaminants PFOA And PFOS In Groundwater

Written by Todd W. Billmire, Bradford A. De Vore, and Richard E. Morton,
Womble Bond Dickinson

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has released its Draft Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) for public review and comment as part of the Agency’s PFAS Action Plan commitments.

EPA developed the draft recommendations based on the Agency’s current scientific understanding of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) toxicity. The recommendations are intended to provide clear and consistent guidance for federal cleanup programs, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly referred to as “Superfund”). The recommendations are also intended to aide state and tribal cleanup programs, and in carrying out other federal regulatory authorities (e.g., federal facility cleanup programs and approved state Resource Conservation and Recovery Act corrective action programs). When finalized, the recommendations will provide guidance to responsible parties as they make site-specific characterization and cleanup decisions for PFOA and PFOS.

Installations with reported DOD action on elevated levels of firefighting foam chemicals, August 2017 (Source: U.S. Government Accounting Office)

The guidance provides recommendations on:

  • Screening levels, which are used to determine if levels of contamination may warrant further investigation;
  • Preliminary remediation goals (PRGs) to inform site-specific cleanup levels for PFOA and PFOS contamination of groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water. PRGs are initial targets for cleanup, which may be adjusted on a site-specific basis as more information becomes available.

EPA is seeking comments on all parts of the recommendations, including the use of EPA’s Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory level of 70 ng/L or parts per trillion as the recommended PRG for groundwater, or whether higher or lower values would be supported.

The 45-day public comment period will close on June 10, 2019.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.


About the Authors

Todd W. Billmire is a skilled litigator that defends companies in environmental litigation and related administrative and regulatory matters. His clients value his thoughtful problem solving approach to complex environmental matters and his environmental consulting background.

Todd represents a variety multinational manufacturers, energy companies, utilities, and municipalities in environmental litigation and compliance matters. Todd also has counseled and represented individuals and businesses in a wide range of business litigation matters, including class action litigation, securities litigation, and corporate and commercial disputes.

Brad De Vore is the Team leader of the Environmental and Toxic Tort practice at Womble Bond Dickinson. Toxic torts and high-stakes environmental litigation involve complex legal and technical issues, and multi-million-dollar liability exposure. Such cases can create media concerns and governmental enforcement actions that transcend the individual dispute. Environmental enforcement matters also can present significant business risks, perhaps crippling or even shutting down a company.

When clients face such threats they choose Brad for his and his top-drawer team’s experience and ability to tackle even the most complicated problems. Brad has spent more than 30 years developing a leading practice that includes extensive toxic tort and environmental litigation experience for many domestic and multinational clients in sectors such as energy, chemicals, electronics, construction and real estate development.

Brad’s experience with the fate and transport of chemicals and environmental agents, and their impact on human health and the environment, has led to successful results in many toxic tort, environmental and enforcement matters.

Richard E. Morton is a recognized leader in the environmental regulatory and litigation defense practice at Womble Bond Dickinson.  When clients face multi-million dollar environmental claims and regulatory enforcement challenges they turn to Ric because of his insight, tenacity and ability to untangle even the most complicated matters. Ric counsels companies in federal and state regulatory compliance and dispute resolution. His practice focuses on environmental regulatory compliance, litigation and enforcement defense, as well as toxic tort and products liability litigation.

Ric is particularly experienced in defending clients against bet-the-company damage claims related to chemical exposure; this includes public properties such as wastewater treatment systems. This work includes defending clients in various toxic tort and class action claims for personal injury and property damage from alleged contamination by benzene, chlorinated solvents, metals, particulates, petroleum constituents and other substances.

Handbook on Managing Emerging Contaminants

The term “emerging contaminants” and its multiple variants has come to refer to unregulated compounds discovered in the environment that are also found to represent a potential threat to human and ecological receptors. Such contaminants create unique and considerable challenges as the push to address them typically outpaces the understanding of their toxicity, their need for regulation, their occurrence, and techniques for treating the environmental media they affect.

Unregulated compounds that could be potential issues continually surface as detection technology improves, driving the need to more quickly evolve our understanding, technology, and appropriate response options to address them. It is clear that conquering this challenge will play a role in protecting our quality of life.

In Emerging Contaminants Handbook, published by CRC Press, editors Caitlin H. Bell, Margaret Gentile, Erica Kalve, Ian Ross, and John Horst review the latest insights on emerging contaminant occurrence, regulation, characterization, and treatment techniques. The goal is to serve as a primer for deepening your emerging contaminant acumen in navigating their management where they may be encountered.

Use Emerging Contaminants Handbook to:

  • Explore the definition, identification, and life cycle of emerging contaminants.
  • Review current information on sources, toxicology, regulation, and new tools for characterization and treatment of:
    • 1,4-Dioxane (mature in its emerging contaminant life cycle)
    • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs; a newer group of emerging contaminants)
    • Hexavalent chromium (former emerging contaminant with evolving science)
    • 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (progressing in its emerging contaminant life cycle)
  • Examine opportunities in managing emerging contaminants to help balance uncertainty, compress life cycle, and optimize outcomes.

Emerging Contaminants Handbook can be purchased at CRCPress.com or Amazon.com.