March ’23 at-a-glance … environment

EPA proposes national standard for PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” in drinking water

True to the plan outlined in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the EPA proposed the first national  standard to establish maximum drinking water contaminant levels for six PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as “forever chemicals.” The proposed rule would require public water systems to monitor for and notify the public of the levels of these chemicals and reduce their levels in drinking water if they exceed the proposed standards.

PFAS subject to regulation would include PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, and PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and GenX Chemicals as a mixture.

EPA will hold two webinars and a public hearing to further discuss its proposal:

Ten states already have enforceable drinking water standards for these PFAS: Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

EPA steps up enforcement against HFC imports

In March, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued three, six-digit financial penalties against hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) importers for failing to disclose their import qualities under the Clean Air Act’s Green Gas Reporting Program. EPA also issued the first notices of violation under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM) to alleged violators of imported HFCs without the required allowances. According to EPA, “Stopping illegal HFC imports is a top priority of a federal interagency taskforce that includes EPA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

EPA evaluating chemicals used in PVC and other products

EPA is currently conducting risk evaluations for five phthalates, chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products, including PVC. The agency also is seeking input on evaluating the cumulative impact of these substances under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), since people are often exposed to numerous chemicals at the same time.

The chemicals in question include di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP), and dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP), and two phthalates subject to manufacturer-requested risk evaluation, including di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP).

EPA will hold a public virtual meeting of its Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) May 8-11 to peer review the cumulative risk-assessment principles and framework. Information on registering to attend the public virtual meeting will be available in April on the SACC website.

Washington state bill introduces extended producer liability program

Washington House Bill 1164 attempts to address end-of-life management and disposal of refrigerants by requiring the development of an appliance stewardship organization (ASO) to provide for the collection of covered appliances. If the bill passes as proposed, the ASO must include commercial or institutional refrigerating and freezing equipment under 1,000 lbs., as well as other products. Manufacturers would be required to register with the ASO by Jan. 1, 2024, and the ASO must be operational by July 1, 2027.

The ASO described in Washington’s proposed bill is similar to SORAC, the Commercial Appliance Recovery Society formed to meet Quebec’s extended-producer responsibility initiative for commercial and institutional refrigeration and freezer equipment to comply with Recyc-Quebec (R-Q) requirements.

Maine developing infrastructure to enforce PFAs ban

In October 2022, Maine approved the most comprehensive per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) restrictions in the U.S. Public Law c. 477 requires manufacturers of products with intentionally added PFAs report those products to an online reporting database this year. The law also prohibits the sale of carpets, rugs or fabric treatments that intentionally contain PFAs by the same date. The sale of any product containing intentionally added PFAs will be banned in the state effective Jan. 1, 2030.

The state is currently developing the reporting database and a rule to clarify reporting requirements. According to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, the program web page has the most current information. They also recommend regularly visiting the Maine Legislature webpage and the calendar for the public hearings and work sessions.