On March 11, 2021, Michael Regan, the former North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary was sworn into office as the new head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since this transition from the NC DEQ to US EPA Administrator, Regan has made it clear per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination remains a top priority for him.
As mentioned in previous articles, the main offender for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina is the Chemours Co. Fayetteville Works Plant. Under a consent order agreement issued by North Carolina in 2020, Chemours has conducted studies of its Fayetteville Works Facility. These studies showed that nearly 250 unknown PFAS compounds were being released into the Cape Fear River. Cape Fear River Watch and other environmental groups subsequently submitted a petition to the EPA. The petition called for Chemours to fund independent testing of their Fayetteville Works Facility under the Toxic Control Substances Act (TSCA).
Ongoing Struggle Between EPA and Environmental Groups
On January 7, 2021, under the former Trump administration, the petitioners’ request for Chemours to fund independent testing of the Fayetteville Works Plant was denied by the EPA. At that time, the agency said the denial was due to claims of insufficient data and reiterated that its decision was not based on a lack of concern with PFAS contamination. According to the March 2021 article, “EPA Has Made Some Changes to PFAS Plan“, the EPA further explained their decision to deny the request, saying:
The EPA released a letter explaining its decision to deny the petition, stating in part “The denial is not based on lack of concern with PFAS.”
The letter referred to the agency’s February 2019-issued PFAS Action Plan, which identifies 23 actions the agency will undertake in identifying and understanding PFAS, ways to address current PFAS contamination and prevent future contamination and educate the public about PFAS.
The plan was updated in February 2020.
Many environmental groups strongly support Michael Regan’s appointment but the new Biden administration to head the EPA, with hopes that he will push the agency to focus more on the PFAS issue. Additionally, since Regan’s confirmation by the US Senate as EPA Administrator, many of these environmental groups have expressed interest in resubmitting their petition calling for more action from Chemours.
New Action Taken By EPA on PFAS Contamination
According to the March 2021 article, “EPA Has Made Some Changes to PFAS Plan“, the EPA reissued three water-related items for PFAS, and published its final regulatory determination for PFOA [Perfluorooctanoic acid] and PFOS [perflurooctane sulfonate]:
“This regulatory determination that we finalized outlines avenues that the agency consider to further evaluate additional PFAS chemicals beyond just PFOA and PFOS and would also provide the flexibility for the agency to consider groups of PFAS as supported by the available science,” Jones said. “It sets in motion how we would develop a regulation for drinking water for those two chemicals and that could still take some time so we’ll be working on developing those drinking water regulations and will publish a proposal for public comment by March 2023. As part of that process to develop the proposed rules for those we would seek input from EPA Science Advisory Board, the National Drinking Water Advisory Council and other stakeholders as we develop that proposed rule.”
Additionally, the agency re-proposed and published the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rules (UCMR 5). Under the newly proposed UCMR 5, samples of 29 PFAS will be collected from public water systems between 2023 and 2025. This data will help the agency understand the frequency of PFAS contamination in the nation’s drinking water.
We will continue to observe the GenX situation and deliver information on any new findings or resolutions. To learn more about the background and specifics of GenX, you can visit our law firm’s website pages:
- GenX Cancers Overview
- Summary of Information
- Timeline: GenX Contamination of the Cape Fear River
- Timeline: GenX Study Results
- GenX: Cancer Evaluation Form
Written by: Lauren Schwab, Legal Assistant
Law Offices of Thomas J. Lamb, P.A.