News Feature | August 2, 2021

U.S. House Sets Official Deadline For PFAS Limits In Drinking Water

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


After years as one of the most prevalent drinking water contaminants in headlines and on the minds of treatment operations around the country, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are now closer than ever to receiving federal limits in effluent.

The U.S. House of Representatives has now passed a bill that sets a deadline for the U.S. EPA to implement drinking water regulations for PFAS.

“The PFAS Action Act of 2021 passed the lower chamber with bipartisan support, 241-183,” The Hill reported. “The legislation … would demand that the EPA regulate the most common perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — PFOA and PFOS — within two years of enactment.”

The bill would also require that the U.S. EPA designate PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law within a year and would give the agency five years to both determine whether all PFAS should be designated as hazardous and to provide a review of its PFAS cleanup work. In addition, the EPA would have to develop effluent limits for PFAS per the Clean Water Act.

Following House approval, the act now faces the U.S. Senate. And while similar legislation has made it this far without becoming law, supporters are optimistic that the attention around PFAS today will change that.

“Supporters hope increased public awareness of the compounds, including the 2019 film ‘Dark Waters’ starring actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo, will help it gain support among senators,” per the Los Angeles Times. “The White House has announced that President Biden would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.”

Despite the increased attention and support, however, some legislators remain opposed to the potential regulation.

“Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) called the bill ‘sincerely well-intended’ but said that the Congressional Budget Office was unable to assign a budgetary score to such an expansive legislation, which would be a ‘hamstring to our small business,’” The Hill reported. “Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), a heart surgeon, criticized the authors for failing to include an amendment that would exempt PFAS use in medical devices — suggesting that the text as-is could jeopardize access to life-saving drugs.”

Drinking water treatment professionals around the country are doubtlessly watching the bill’s progress closely, as such comprehensive PFAS regulation would have significant impact on many utilities around the country.

For more information on the laws that govern drinking water treatment, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.