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EPA Names 2 Chemicals as Haza 04/19 08:25

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday designated 
two forever chemicals that have been used in cookware, carpets and firefighting 
foams as hazardous substances, an action intended to ensure quicker cleanup of 
the toxic compounds and require industries and others responsible for 
contamination to pay for its removal.

   Designation as a hazardous substance under the Superfund law doesn't ban the 
chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS. But it requires that releases of the 
chemicals into soil or water be reported to federal, state or tribal officials 
if they meet or exceed certain levels. The EPA then may require cleanups to 
protect public health and recover costs that can reach tens of millions of 
dollars.

   PFOA and PFOS have been voluntarily phased out by U.S. manufacturers but are 
still in limited use and remain in the environment because they do not degrade 
over time. The compounds are part of a larger cluster of forever chemicals 
known as PFAS that have been used since the 1940s in industry and consumer 
products including nonstick frying pans, water-repellent sports gear, 
stain-resistant rugs and cosmetics.

   The term PFAS is short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The 
chemicals can accumulate and persist in the human body for long periods. 
Evidence from animal and human studies indicates that exposure to PFOA or PFOS 
may lead to cancer or other health problems, including liver and heart damage 
and developmental problems in infants and children.

   The final rule issued Friday follows strict limits set by the EPA on certain 
PFAS in drinking water that will require utilities to reduce them to the lowest 
level they can be reliably measured. Officials say the drinking water rule, 
announced April 10, will reduce exposure for 100 million people and help 
prevent thousands of illnesses, including cancers.

   Last year, three chemical companies announced they had reached a $1.18 
billion deal to resolve complaints of polluting many U.S. drinking water 
systems with PFAS. DuPont de Nemours Inc., The Chemours Co. and Corteva Inc. 
said they would establish a fund to compensate water providers for 
contamination.

   And earlier this month, chemical manufacturer 3M Co. announced it will begin 
payments to many U.S. public drinking water systems as part of a 
multibillion-dollar settlement over contamination with forever chemicals.

   resident Joe Biden's administration "understands the threat that forever 
chemicals pose to the health of families across the country,'' EPA 
Administrator Michael Regan said. "Designating these chemicals under our 
Superfund authority will allow EPA to address more contaminated sites, take 
earlier action and expedite cleanups --- all while ensuring polluters pay for 
the costs to clean up pollution threatening the health of communities."

   Besides the final rule, the EPA issued a notice clarifying that the agency 
will focus enforcement efforts on businesses and people who significantly 
contribute to the release of PFAS chemicals into the environment, including 
companies that have manufactured PFAS or used it in the manufacturing process, 
as well as federal agencies and other responsible groups.

   PFAS used in firefighting foam has tainted groundwater on and near military 
bases and other locations where it's used in training exercises.

   The Superfund law allows the EPA to clean up contaminated sites across the 
country and forces parties responsible for the contamination to either perform 
cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work. When no 
responsible party can be identified, Superfund gives the EPA money and 
authority to clean up contaminated sites.

   The EPA's action follows a report by the National Academies of Science that 
calls PFAS a serious public health threat in the U.S. and worldwide. The EPA 
said in 2022 that PFOA and PFOS are more dangerous than previously thought and 
pose health risks even at levels so low they cannot currently be detected.

   David Uhlmann, the EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and 
compliance, called the Superfund designation "a major step toward holding 
polluters accountable for significant releases of PFAS into the environment.'' 
Officials "intend to exercise our enforcement discretion to focus on 
significant sources of PFAS contamination,'' he said, not farmers, municipal 
landfills, water utilities, municipal airports or local fire departments.

   Water utilities, fire departments and other groups had complained that an 
earlier EPA proposal could have imposed unfair costs on them without defined 
cleanup standards.

   The federal designation will ensure that manufacturers most responsible for 
widespread PFAS contamination will bear the costs of cleaning it up, said 
Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, a lawyer for the environmental group Earthjustice.

   He said it "just got a lot harder" for polluters including chemical 
companies that long manufactured PFAS "to pass the costs of their PFAS releases 
off on impacted communities and taxpayers."

   Erik Olson, a health expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said 
the EPA's action will help protect millions of American families exposed to the 
toxic chemicals.

   "We all learned in kindergarten that if we make a mess, we should clean it 
up," he said. "The EPA's Superfund rule is a big step in the right direction 
for holding polluters accountable for cleaning up decades of contamination."

 
 
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