Two of the most widely used “forever chemicals” are now classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as hazardous substances, a move heralded by the federal government as a significant step forward in addressing PFAS contamination. 

Late this spring, the EPA finalized the designation for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or Superfund. The EPA also issued the PFAS Enforcement Discretion and Settlement Policy, focusing its efforts on entities that significantly contribute to the release of PFAS chemicals into the environment, such as facilities that manufacture, use, or handle PFAS-containing products. 

What does the EPA’s rule on PFOA and PFOS entail?

  • Entities must immediately report releases of PFOA or PFOS that meet or exceed the reportable quantity—one pound within a 24-hour period—to the National Response Center and state, tribal, and local emergency responders. Parties do not need to report past releases if they are no longer active as of the rule’s effective date of July 8, 2024.
  • Federal entities that transfer or sell property must provide notice about the storage, release, or disposal of PFOA or PFOS and ensure contamination is—or will be—cleaned up.
  • The rule does not alter CERCLA’s liability framework, which includes protections for parties not primarily responsible for PFAS contamination in certain circumstances. 
  • The EPA stated it does not intend to pursue entities where “equitable factors do not support seeking response actions or costs under CERCLA,” such as municipal water utilities or local fire departments.

With the unveiling of any new rule, unforeseen operational disruptions and indirect costs may arise. CTEH has decades of field experience working alongside federal agencies, including the EPA, on complex environmental sampling, data management, and remediation projects. Our experts can also offer guidance on developing and implementing proactive solutions, including during the permitting process for new construction, to help mitigate the risk of PFOA and PFOS contamination. Contact our team here.