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EPA Criticized for Ignoring Environmental Justice Concerns in PFAS … – Products Finishing

EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) claims the agency has failed to address adequately environmental justice concerns associated with PFAS in an effort to avoid another crisis similar to the lead in Flint, MI drinking water.
#pollutioncontrol #regulation #sustainability
EPA’s environmental justice (EJ) advisors are questioning whether the agency’s strategic roadmap to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) does enough to protect environmental justice (EJ) communities and provide them with funding, with some comparing the situation to the lead crisis that affects drinking water in Flint, MI.  
The chair of a PFAS workgroup on EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) recently said the panel will be providing feedback to EPA on the overarching PFAS Roadmap, including addressing what it sees as missing items ahead of a September deadline. 
The NEJAC members signaled that the agency will face increased pressure to toughen its PFAS roadmap and devote more resources to address community concerns even as officials are facing blowback from utilities and Republican lawmakers over the agency’s new drinking water health advisories for PFAS set at levels lower than what can be detected.
NEJAC members compared the PFAS exposure crisis to what happened in Flint, MI, which is still addressing its lead-in-drinking water crisis that began eight years ago when the city’s water source was switched. They further noted that there are multiple types of PFAS exposure to vulnerable communities, including air, water, and waste, as well as through food and drink packaging.
In response to a presentation on PFAS strategy to the NEJAC from EPA’s water office, NEJAC members indicated that they are not seeing “enough about what is being done specifically” for EJ communities.  Specifically, concerns were raised about limited funds for communities reminiscent of the events leading up to the lead crisis in Flint, MI.
Other NEJAC members raised significant concerns, including one who said that PFAS restrictions are helpful, but there is “persistent anger that government really isn’t protecting us by allowing these things to be created in the first place. . . We’re killing ourselves.”
In response to these concerns, EPA officials touted a range of actions being taken to limit exposures and remediate contamination, such as the new drinking water health advisories for PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and GenX, the drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS, PFAS, development of new effluent limitation guidelines for industry source categories, and the listing of PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA.  
In addition to the new drinking water health advisory levels for four PFAS, EPA also announced $1 billion in new funds authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that will be targeted “to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination,” — a first step toward distributing a total of $5 billion the law allocates for PFAS reductions in vulnerable communities.
Nonetheless, the EJ concerns expressed on how EPA is addressing PFAS will continue to add pressure to EPA to impose additional regulatory controls over PFAS, hold industries accountable, and show results in minimizing potential impacts of PFAS on disadvantaged communities.  If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this issue, please contact Jeff Hannapel or Christian Richter with NASF at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com or crichter@thepolicygroup.com
This update is courtesy of the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF). For more information or to become a member, visit nasf.org.
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