CEH Responds to U.S. EPA Designating Two ‘Forever Chemicals’ as Hazardous Substances

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) applauds the U.S. EPA for designating PFOA and PFOS, two of the most studied Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  This action gives EPA Superfund enforcement tools at sites with PFOA and PFOS contamination, including the authority to order potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to conduct cleanups and cost recovery, ensuring that the polluters, not taxpayers, pay for cleanups.  Just like the recently announced PFAS drinking water standards, this rule is based on significant peer reviewed scientific evidence, including epidemiological and toxicological studies, that PFOA and PFOS when released into the environment may present a substantial danger to public health and the environment.  

“There is sufficient scientific evidence for EPA to move forward with designating additional PFAS as CERCLA hazardous substances, and there is a sound basis for EPA to propose designating the entire class of PFAS as hazardous substances,” said Tom Fox, Senior Legislative Counsel for CEH. “We urge EPA to pick up the pace in exercising its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to order PFAS manufacturers to conduct testing, including ordering epidemiological studies.”

CEH is also pleased to see that EPA issued the PFAS Enforcement Discretion and Settlement Policy with the final CERCLA rule.  Under the enforcement discretion policy, EPA will focus on PRPs who significantly contributed to the releases, including the PFAS manufacturers, users of PFAS in manufacturing, federal facilities, and other industrial parties.  The policy details how EPA can use its enforcement discretion to protect parties that did not contribute significantly to the release, including providing contribution protection from third parties.  EPA can also enter into settlements with major PRPs where the PRP agrees not to go after entities like public drinking water and wastewater systems.  CERCLA liability exemptions are not only unwarranted, they would also remove the incentive to act responsibly and would set a terrible precedent.