Apr 21, 2024

​EPA issues new drinking water standard for PFAS

Earlier this month the EPA enacted it's first new federal drinking water standard in over 20 years for PFAS.

This new standard will require public water utilities to test for 6 specific PFAS chemicals

Here's a table from the EPA Fact Sheet on this new regulation.

As you can see from the table, the EPA has set legally enforceable limits for 5 PFAS chemicals, and for a hazard limit for a combination 2 or more of 4 of those. Hazard indexes are actually great, because it takes into account concurrent exposure. You can read more what a hazard index here.

The EPA has set aside $1.5 billion a year to help states comply with this standard, and while that might seem like a lot to spend on this one thing, compared to the benefits.

In calculating the quantifiable benefits, the EPA wasn't able to put a number on benefits related to developmental, cardiovascular, liver, immune, endocrine, metabolic, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and carcinogenic effects, which means that the benefits will likely dwarf that $1.5 billion price tag.

A little MORE good news...
April 19th, the EPA designated two of the most common PFAS chemicals (PFOA & PFOS) as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law.

Both of these chemicals were phased out of use in the early 2000s, but because they are so persistent, they are still widespread.

A designation as a "hazardous substance" means that the EPA can add contaminated sites to the Superfund site list, and earmark funds for cleanup. One of the core aspects of the Superfund law is the "polluter pays" principle - the EPA can require companies to pay for cleanup.

You can read more about what this designation means here.

EPA Takes Action to Maintain Public Health Protections for Communities Near Stationary Combustion Turbines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied a petition to remove stationary combustion turbines from the list of sources subject to regulation for emissions of air toxics, maintaining public health protections for communities near these facilities.

Today's action supports EPA's comprehensive approach to address climate and health-harming pollution from stationary combustion turbines. EPA is engaging with stakeholders on next steps for a broad-based approach to new and existing combustion turbines, including a proposed revision to the air toxics standards for combustion turbines as well as separate rulemakings to address ozone-forming pollution from new combustion turbines and to establish greenhouse gas emission guidelines for existing combustion turbines. 

EPA's section 112 regulations limit emissions of air toxics, also called hazardous air pollutants, such as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, acetaldehyde, and metallic HAP (e.g., cadmium, chromium, manganese, lead, nickel). HAP are known to cause – or are suspected to cause – cancer or other serious adverse health and environmental effects. Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are probable human carcinogens.

Petitioners requested EPA remove, or "delist," combustion turbines, saying that cancer risks from this source category were below 1-in-1 million and would meet the statutory "delisting" threshold. EPA has reviewed data and analyses submitted as part of this petition as well as additional emissions testing data. EPA is denying the petition based on the agency's determination that the petition is incomplete and because EPA cannot conclude that there are adequate data to determine that the delisting thresholds in the Clean Air Act have been met. This is primarily due to both the uncertainty in the HAP emissions from affected sources and the missing emissions data from a large number of affected sources in the petitioners' risk analysis.

A pre-publication version of the notice and a fact sheet are available on the Stationary Combustion Turbines: National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants webpage.

Apr 10, 2024

DNR, DHS Respond To EPA’s Announcement Of Maximum Contaminant Levels For PFAS In Drinking Water

WDNR- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced new enforceable federal standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. This includes a new enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4.0 parts per trillion (ppt) individually for PFOA and PFOS and 10 ppt individually for PFNA, PFHxS and GenX. Additionally, the EPA finalized an MCL at a hazard index of 1 when a combination of PFNA, PFHxS, GenX and PFBS are present in a mixture.    

The EPA's enforceable standards acknowledge the importance of limiting exposure to PFAS in total and the role that drinking contaminated water plays in the potential for negative health impacts from PFAS.   

"Overall, Wisconsin's public water systems are well positioned to comply with the EPA's enforceable standards," said Steve Elmore, Director of the DNR's Bureau of Drinking Water and Groundwater. "The DNR set enforceable standards for two types of PFAS in public drinking water in 2022. Over the last year, public water systems throughout Wisconsin have sampled at least once for these and other PFAS."   

The current enforceable standard of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS in public drinking water will remain in effect until the DNR completes rulemaking to comply with the EPA's drinking water standards. This may take up to three years to complete based on Wisconsin's statutory requirements

Additionally, the DNR will formally request that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) update their health-based recommendations for the six PFAS included in EPA's finalized MCLs to account for new scientific findings. Wisconsin DHS anticipates their updated recommendations will be available during the second half of 2024.    

"DHS is committed to protecting Wisconsinites from exposure to PFAS, including diligently reviewing the new scientific information available from EPA," said Kirsten Johnson, DHS Secretary-Designee. "The good news is there are steps people can take right now to reduce their exposure to PFAS in drinking water and other sources." 

While this rulemaking process is underway, the DNR will also work with PFAS-impacted public water systems on potential actions to reduce contamination in water provided to the community.   

Of Wisconsin's nearly 2,000 public water systems, approximately 95% have PFAS levels below the EPA's standards. Sampling results for municipal public drinking water systems are available to view in the PFAS Interactive Data Viewer.   

The specific actions taken by any public water system will depend on their circumstances and could include treating water to remove PFAS or finding a different water source. These MCLs do not apply to drinking water from private wells.

Funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law may be available to municipal public water systems to take corrective actions against PFAS

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam.  

These contaminants have made their way into the environment in a variety of ways, including spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of wastewater that contain PFAS from treatment plants and use of certain types of firefighting foams. PFAS are known to accumulate in fish and wildlife tissues as well as in the human body, posing several risks to human health. 

You can find more information about actions to take to reduce your exposure to PFAS on the DHS website

For communities near chemical plants, EPA's new air pollution rule spells relief

The new regulation is aimed at reducing the risk of cancer for people who live close to plants emitting toxic chemicals.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a major rule on Tuesday to reduce toxic air pollution coming from more than 200 chemical plants across the U.S. The new standards for petrochemical plants, once implemented, will cut enough cancer-causing emissions to reduce cancer risk by 96% for people living near these industries, according to the EPA.

"This is a game changer any way you look at it," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan at a press event Tuesday. "This is a game changer for the health. It's a game changer for the prosperity. It's a game changer for children in these communities nationwide."

Apr 2, 2024

EPA Warns Farmworkers about Risks of Dacthal

WASHINGTON — April 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is announcing its next steps to protect people from the herbicide dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate (DCPA, or Dacthal). EPA is warning people of the significant health risks to pregnant individuals and their developing babies exposed to DCPA and will be pursuing action to address the serious, permanent, and irreversible health risks associated with the pesticide as quickly as possible. EPA has also issued a letter to AMVAC, the sole manufacturer of DCPA, restating the risks the agency found and stating that due to the serious risks posed by DCPA, the agency is pursuing further action to protect workers and others who could be exposed. EPA is taking this rare step of warning farmworkers about these concerns while it works on actions to protect workers because of the significant risks the agency has identified.

"DCPA exposure represents a serious risk to pregnant workers and their children, so it's imperative that we warn people about those risks now," said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. "We're committed to taking action to protect the health of children, workers, and others who are exposed to DCPA."

DCPA is an herbicide registered to control weeds in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, but is primarily used on crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and onions.

DCPA is currently undergoing registration review, a process that requires reevaluating registered pesticides every 15 years to ensure they cause no unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment. In May 2023, EPA released its assessment on the risks of occupational and residential exposure to products containing DCPA, after the agency reviewed data that it compelled AMVAC to submit, which had been overdue for almost 10 years. The assessment found concerning evidence of health risks associated with DCPA use and application, even when personal protective equipment and engineering controls are used. The most serious risks extend to the developing babies of pregnant individuals. EPA estimates that some pregnant individuals handling DCPA products could be subjected to exposures from four to 20 times greater than what current DCPA product label use instructions indicate is considered safe. EPA is concerned that pregnant women exposed to DCPA could experience changes to fetal thyroid hormone levels, and these changes are generally linked to low birth weight, impaired brain development, decreased IQ, and impaired motor skills later in life.

Also of concern are risks to developing babies of pregnant individuals entering or working in areas where DCPA has already been applied (especially post-application workers involved in tasks such as transplanting, weeding and harvesting). Current product labels specify that entry into treated fields must be restricted for 12 hours after application. However, the evidence indicates that for many crops and tasks, levels of DCPA in the previously treated fields remained at unsafe levels for 25 days or more. EPA also identified potential risks for individuals using golf courses and athletic fields after DCPA was applied. Spray drift from pesticide application could also put developing babies at risk for pregnant individuals living near areas where DCPA is used.

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