EPA Releases Interim Guidance on Destroying and Disposing of Certain PFAS and PFAS-Containing Materials
WASHINGTON (December 18, 2020) - Today, as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) aggressive efforts under the PFAS Action Plan, the agency is releasing new interim guidance on destroying and disposing of certain PFAS and PFAS-containing materials for public comment. Specifically, the new interim guidance outlines the current state of the science on techniques and treatments that may be used to destroy or dispose of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials from non-consumer products, including aqueous film-forming foam for firefighting.
“With this interim guidance, EPA is providing important scientific information on available technologies that can assist with the destruction and disposal of PFAS,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This action is a critical part of our efforts to increase the understanding of PFAS and support our federal, state, tribal and local partners as we address these emerging chemicals of concern.”
In the limited time provided under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA), the interim guidance assembles and consolidates information in a single document that generally describes thermal treatment, landfill and underground injection technologies that may be effective in the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. To help ensure informed decision-making, the technology-specific information describes uncertainties and how those uncertainties should be weighed given situation-specific factors, such as the waste’s physical phase (liquid, solid, gas).
EPA’s ongoing research and development is leveraging in-house expertise and external partnerships to help address the knowledge gaps identified in the draft interim guidance. Additionally, there are many current research efforts being coordinated across the federal government to help address PFAS destruction. EPA will incorporate this increased knowledge into future versions of this guidance to help decision-makers choose the most appropriate PFAS disposal options for their particular circumstances.
As required by the FY20 NDAA, the interim guidance addresses PFAS and PFAS-containing materials including:
- Aqueous film-forming foam (for firefighting).
- Soil and biosolids.
- Textiles, other than consumer goods, treated with PFAS.
- Spent filters, membranes, resins, granular carbon, and other waste from water treatment.
- Landfill leachate containing PFAS.
- Solid, liquid, or gas waste streams containing PFAS from facilities manufacturing or using PFAS.
The interim guidance is not intended to address destruction and disposal of PFAS-containing consumer products, such as non-stick cookware and water-resistant clothing.
The agency is also providing guidance on testing and monitoring air, effluent, and soil for releases near potential destruction or disposal sites. EPA’s interim guidance captures the significant information gaps associated with PFAS testing and monitoring and identifies specific research needs to address the FY20 NDAA requirements.
EPA will accept comments on the Interim Guidance for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. For more information, please see www.epa.gov/pfas. EPA will then consider and incorporate comments, as appropriate, into a revised document. EPA will also review and revise the interim guidance, as appropriate, or at least once every 3 years.
PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, facilities using PFAS in production of other products, airports, and military installations are some of the contributors of PFAS releases into the air, soil, and water. Due to their strong carbon-fluorine bonds, many PFAS can be difficult to break down and very persistent in the environment with degradation periods of years, decades, or longer under natural conditions. Many PFAS are chemically and thermally stable and demonstrate resistance to heat, water, and oil.
As part of EPA’s aggressive efforts to address these risks, the agency issued the PFAS Action Plan in February 2019. The Action Plan is the agency’s first multi-media, multi-program, national research, management, and risk communication plan to address a challenge like PFAS. EPA continues to make progress under the plan to protect the environment and human health, including:
Highlighted Action: Drinking Water
- In December 2019, EPA accomplished a key milestone in the PFAS Action Plan by publishing a new validated method to accurately test for 11 additional PFAS in drinking water. Method 533 complements EPA Method 537.1, and the agency can now measure 29 chemicals.
- In February 2020, EPA took an important step in implementing the agency’s PFAS Action Plan by proposing to regulate PFOA and PFOS drinking water.
- EPA also asked for information and data on other PFAS substances, as well as sought comment on potential monitoring requirements and regulatory approaches.
- In November 2020, EPA issued a memo detailing an interim National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permitting strategy for PFAS. The agency also released information on progress in developing new analytical methods to test for PFAS compounds in wastewater and other environmental media.
Highlighted Action: Cleanup
- In December 2019, EPA issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which provides guidance for federal cleanup programs (e.g., CERCLA and RCRA) that will also be helpful to states and tribes.
- The recommendations provide a starting point for making site-specific cleanup decisions and will help protect drinking water resources in communities across the country.
- In December 2020, EPA issued Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of PFAS and Materials Containing PFAS for public input.
- EPA is working on the proposed rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA. In the absence of the rule, EPA has used its existing authorities to compel cleanups.
Highlighted Action: Monitoring
- In July 2020, EPA transmitted the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5 (UCMR 5) proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review. EPA anticipates proposing nationwide drinking water monitoring for PFAS that uses new methods that can detect PFAS at lower concentrations than previously possible.
Highlighted Action: Toxics
- In September 2019, EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
- In June 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that added a list of 172 PFAS chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory reporting as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
- In July 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that can stop products containing PFAS from entering or reentering the marketplace without EPA’s explicit permission.
- In December 2020, EPA asked for public input on new draft guidance that outlines which imported articles are covered by the agency’s July 2020 final rule that prohibits companies from manufacturing, importing, processing, or using certain long-chain PFAS without prior EPA review and approval.
Highlighted Action: Scientific Leadership
- EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions.
- EPA continues to develop new methods to test for additional PFAS in drinking water.
- The agency is also validating analytical methods for surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soils, sediments and biosolids; developing new methods to test for PFAS in air and emissions; and improving laboratory methods to discover unknown PFAS.
- EPA is developing exposure models to understand how PFAS moves through the environment to impact people and ecosystems.
- EPA is working to develop tools to assist officials with the cleanup of contaminated sites.
- In July 2020, EPA added new treatment information for removing PFAS from drinking water.
Highlighted Action: Technical Assistance
- Just as important as the progress on PFAS at the federal level are EPA efforts to form partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities across the country.
- EPA has provided assistance to more than 30 states to help address PFAS, and the agency is continuing to build on this support.
- These joint projects allow EPA to take the knowledge of its world-class scientists and apply it in a collaborative fashion where it counts most.
Highlighted Action: Enforcement
- EPA continues to use enforcement tools, when appropriate, to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assist states in enforcement activities.
- EPA has already taken actions to address PFAS, including issuing Safe Drinking Water Act orders and providing support to states. See examples in the PFAS Action Plan.
- To date, across the nation, EPA has addressed PFAS in 15 cases using a variety of enforcement tools under SDWA, TSCA, RCRA, and CERCLA (where appropriate), and will continue to do so to protect public health and the environment.
Highlighted Action: Grants and Funding
- Under this Administration, EPA’s Office of Research and Development has awarded over $15 million through dozens of grants for PFAS research.
- In May 2019, EPA awarded approximately $3.9 million through two grants for research that will improve the agency’s understanding of human and ecological exposure to PFAS in the environment. This research will also promote a greater awareness of how to restore water quality in PFAS-impacted communities.
- In September 2019, EPA awarded nearly $6 million to fund research by eight organizations to expand the agency’s understanding of the environmental risks posed by PFAS in waste streams and to identify practical approaches to manage potential impacts as PFAS enters the environment.
- In August 2020, EPA awarded $4.8 million in funding for federal research to help identify potential impacts of PFAS to farms, ranches, and rural communities.
Highlighted Action: Risk Communications
- EPA is working collaboratively to develop a risk communication toolbox that includes multimedia materials and messaging for federal, state, tribal, and local partners to use with the public.
Additional information about PFAS can be found at: www.epa.gov/pfas