US designates PFAS chemicals as Superfund hazardous substances

By Thomson Reuters Apr 19, 2024 | 8:13 AM

By Clark Mindock

(Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday designated a pair of widely used industrial chemicals as hazardous substances under the country’s Superfund program, accelerating a crackdown on toxic compounds known as “forever chemicals.”

The rule will require companies to report leaks of two of the most commonly used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and help pay to clean up existing contamination.

The EPA separately last week announced its first-ever drinking water standards to guard against PFAS pollution.

PFAS are a family of thousands of chemicals used in consumer and commercial products like firefighting foams, nonstick pans and stain resistant fabrics. They have been linked to cancer and other health concerns, and are often called forever chemicals because they do not easily break down in the human body or the environment.

The new rule targets contamination from two PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS.

The Superfund designations will ensure that those responsible “pay for the costs to clean up pollution threatening the health of communities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, known as the Superfund law, allows the EPA and state regulators to undertake or order remediation of hazardous sites and seek reimbursement from site owners, hazardous waste generators, waste transporters and others.

The EPA said on Friday it would prioritize enforcement against significant contributors to the release of PFAS, such as federal facilities and manufacturers.

The new rule, one of the most aggressive moves yet by the Biden administration to regulate PFAS, also makes public funds available for remediation.

The regulation could spur additional litigation over liability for PFAS cleanup efforts.

Lawsuits filed by public water systems and others accusing major chemical companies of polluting U.S. drinking water with PFAS chemicals led to more than $11 billion in settlements last year.

(Reporting by Clark Mindock; Editing by David Bario and Jamie Freed)