Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are gaining a lot of attention, popping up in state regulations, federal plans and community news coverage. As many states move to adopt regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making immediate and potentially long-term changes to PFAS reporting, impacting industries that manufacture, process or otherwise use these emerging contaminants at the federal level.
Among other PFAS-related requirements, effective Jan. 1, 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) added 172 PFAS to the list of reportable toxic chemicals covered by the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program — a program established under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Facilities in TRI-covered industry sectors should immediately begin tracking and collecting data on their manufacturing, processing or otherwise use of PFAS. Facilities must also report pollution prevention and recycling data for such chemicals. The NDAA establishes reporting thresholds of 100 pounds for each of the listed PFAS. TRI reporting, commonly known as Form R reporting, on chemical usage during calendar year 2020 will be due to the EPA by July 1, 2021.
In a separate action in December 2019, the EPA put out an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting information from the public to gain a deeper understanding of the more than 600 PFAS chemicals. The EPA sought feedback on PFAS currently active in commerce for future TRI rulemaking. EPA officials were interested in toxicity information available for review, appropriate reporting thresholds given the persistence and bioaccumulation potential of PFAS and whether to list individual PFAS chemicals or PFAS chemical categories.
The public comment period for the ANPRM closed on Feb. 3, 2020. The EPA is carefully reviewing public comments and will determine if additional hazard information is needed. If the EPA decides to move forward with future TRI rulemaking for PFAS, it will publish a proposed rule, which will be available for public comment before being finalized.
This collection of TRI data will help the EPA understand how PFAS chemicals are being used in industry and their releases to the environment, including waste management practices and other pollution prevention activities. TRI data is publicly available and used by government agencies, industry and community organizations. The data gathered can be used to help inform future regulatory actions, prioritize environmental targets, identify potential public health concerns, track progress toward corporate sustainability goals, and identify opportunities for cost savings and chemical reduction.
The EPA is aggressively addressing PFAS to support the agency’s PFAS Action Plan. TRI reporting will be required for PFAS usage during the 2020 calendar year, with additional regulatory action on the horizon. In this rapidly evolving space, facilities in TRI-covered industry sectors need to keep a pulse on regulatory changes.
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