The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week its latest step in the implementation of its Action Plan—a preliminary regulatory determination regarding two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The Action Plan was issued in February 2019 and outlined the agency’s efforts to address PFAS contamination in groundwater. This latest step comes on the heels of the EPA’s November 2019 proposal to add PFAS to the list of chemicals for which facilities must report use under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

In the past, the EPA has published non-binding health advisories recommending PFOA and PFOS levels in drinking water not exceed 70 parts per trillion. The recently proposed regulatory determination is the next step in the process of issuing nationwide standards for drinking water pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). If the EPA ultimately proceeds to regulate PFOA and PFOS under the SDWA, it will mark the first time these PFAS compounds have been regulated in drinking water at the federal level.

In the absence of binding the EPA regulations, various states, including Illinois, are pursuing their own PFAS regulations and guidance, potentially subjecting those addressing PFAS impacts to a patchwork of requirements.

The EPA’s preliminary regulatory determination provides the public with the opportunity to comment on the EPA’s views. During the 60-day comment period, the EPA will also consult with states and other federal agencies. It will then review and consider comments and recommendations and make a final determination on whether to regulate PFAS levels in drinking water.