EPA considers placing limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water
The Guardian – July 14
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it is proposing to include the entire class of PFAS compounds on its "Contaminant Candidate List 5." The chemicals are used to make products resistant to water, stain, and heat, and are known as "forever chemicals" because they do not fully break down or degrade. They have also been linked to a range of health effects. Though the EPA announcement marks only the beginning of a years-long process, the move is significant because it is the first step toward placing enforceable limits on PFAS in drinking water, and states' rules limit fewer than 10 types of individual PFAS compounds. About 9,000 varieties of the chemical exist.
‘Concerning’ levels of toxic contaminants, particulate matter were in the air during Camp Fire, new analysis finds
Oroville Mercury-Register – July 15
According to a report published by the California Air Resources Board on Monday, smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire contained extreme levels of lead and other toxic metals. A monitoring site in the city of Chico saw lead concentrations spike to 50 times their average levels, and researchers also identified elevated levels of zinc, calcium, and iron. The Camp Fire contained these contaminants in far greater concentrations than comparable or larger wildfires, largely due to the higher number of structures burned. The study used monitoring data from several sites in Northern California and found that elevated metals from the Camp Fire were found in air at least as far south as San Jose.
EPA approved chemicals known to result in PFAS for use in hydraulic fracturing, agency files show
The New York Times – July 12
Newly disclosed EPA files show that, in 2011, the agency approved three chemicals for use in hydraulic fracturing – the injection of fluids into the subsurface to ease the extraction of oil – despite warnings from EPA scientists that the chemicals would degrade into PFAS in the environment. Nonprofit group Physicians for Social Responsibility obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act request. The files show that EPA scientists were concerned that after breaking down to PFAS, the chemicals could persist in the environment and potentially be toxic to people and animals. The records are among the first public indications that PFAS may be present in the fluids used during drilling and fracking.
Long delay in alerting public to massive beach sewage spill raises alarm
Los Angeles Times – July 13
After 17 million gallons of raw sewage were discharged from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant into the ocean off Los Angeles beaches on Monday, county officials waited a day before notifying the public to avoid swimming in areas potentially affected by high levels of bacteria. The 17 million gallons — which represent about 6% of the facility’s daily load — amounted to the largest emergency discharge conducted at the Hyperion plant in a decade, officials said. County officials and environmental experts said the delay put the public at risk and urged development of an improved notification protocol.
EPA: 11,000 facilities illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters in 2018
The Hill – July 13
Nearly 11,000 U.S. facilities discharged pollutants into local waters beyond the levels allowed under the law, the EPA told a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. In a report released Monday, the Government Accountability Office said that the EPA found that in 2018, close to 11,000 facilities with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits illegally dumped large amounts of pollutants into local waters. As of fiscal 2020, some 335,000 facilities have active NPDES permits, 60,000 of which are required to monitor pollutant discharge. In its analysis, the EPA points to its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA)'s lack of compliance measures, saying that while they track statistics of compliance, they do not properly track how it improves water quality. OECA does not currently have an outcomes-based measure that monitors improvements to water quality or reduction in pollutants discharged.