In September, EPA set forth its latest draft plan for setting guidelines for PFAS limitations in industrial wastewater in certain industries, and October brought public comments on the draft. Among EPA’s next steps in its September 2021 Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15) are:
- a rulemaking process to set new limitations on PFAS discharges in effluent in the Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers industry category, for PFAS manufacturers (but not yet for PFAS formulators, described by EPA as entities that use PFAS feedstocks to formulate other products);
- a rulemaking process to set new limitations on PFAS discharges in effluent for chromium electroplating facilities in the Metal Finishing industry category, because EPA’s review indicates that PFAS has been used in mist and fume suppressants and may be present in their effluent;
- the commencement of detailed studies of PFAS discharges in the Landfills and Textile Mills industry categories; and
- continued evaluation (but not yet a plan for rulemaking) of the potential for legacy PFAS discharges from sources in the Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard industry sector and from the use of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) for firefighting at commercial airports.
Public comments on Preliminary Plan 15 were submitted in October 2021 and reflected, among other things, concerns of some in the Landfills sector regarding the economic feasibility of pretreatment removal of PFAS from landfill leachate; the need for fully validated analytical methodologies and uniform sampling techniques for effluent sampling; concerns about uncertainties in the existing data upon which EPA has relied for Preliminary Plan 15; and industry concerns about EPA evaluating all or multiple PFAS together categorically, rather than individually or in smaller like-kind classes.
The Final Plan 15 will be issued in fall 2022. According to its recently issued PFAS Strategic Roadmap, EPA expects to publish the proposed rule for PFAS manufacturers in summer 2023 and for electroplaters in summer 2024. EPA anticipates that its detailed studies of PFAS discharges in the Landfills and Textile Mills industry categories, as well as the Electrical and Electronic Components sector, will be completed by fall 2022 to inform a decision on future rulemaking by the end of 2022. Those in the relevant sectors – and those in the sectors that EPA is continuing to study – should begin planning now to get involved in the regulatory process, and to meet whatever new limitations result.