In the wake of the PFAS National Leadership Summit convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 22-23, 2018, EPA opened a public docket to solicit comments on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a category of man-made chemicals that have been widely used to make products because of their stain-resistant, waterproof and/or nonstick properties. Specifically, EPA seeks to obtain information on ongoing efforts to characterize risks from PFAS, as well as develop monitoring and treatment and cleanup techniques, to inform near-term actions needed to address challenges currently facing states and local communities, and to develop risk communication strategies to address public concerns with PFAS. The original comment deadline of July 20, 2018 was recently extended to Sept. 28, 2018.
To date, over 700 unique comments have been filed, and over 65,000 comments via mass mailings have been logged. Most of the comments have come from individual citizens concerned about contamination in their communities, especially of their drinking water. Many of the comments, including those of Senator Bernie Sanders, expressed outrage that reporters and environmental activists were denied entry into most of the National Leadership Summit proceedings. Several trade organizations submitted comments as well, including the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, and a collection of New Hampshire organizations. The Ohio Environmental Council submitted Petitions for Rulemaking in addition to comments.
At the time of publication, industry has not yet weighed in. Given that EPA has stated it intends to use these comments to develop policy going forward, including how to deal with PFAS under various federal environmental statutes impacting the regulated community, we would expect to see comments from historic manufacturers or users of PFAS as well as airports, fuel terminals, landfill operators and responsible parties generally. There remains much uncertainty about a number of technical issues surrounding these compounds which deserve careful consideration, including by technical experts found in industry or their consultants. It remains to be seen whether they will join the public conversation embodied in this docket.