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FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Combatting PFAS Pollution to Safeguard Clean Drinking Water for All Americans

June 15, 2022

$1 Billion from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Made Available to Communities, First Tranche of $5 Billion to Help Communities Tackle Water Contaminants

President Biden and Vice President Harris believe that every American deserves to drink clean water. But for too many communities across this country, children and families are drinking water that is contaminated with lead and dangerous chemicals. That is why the President and Vice President unveiled a plan to combat water pollution and, six months ago, launched the Biden-Harris Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan outlining how the Administration is leveraging $55 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to replace all of America's lead pipes. Together, these plans represent how the President and Vice President have activated an unprecedented effort to deliver clean water across America and mobilized federal, state, and local investments to confront contamination, protect public health, and advance environmental justice.

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new findings and actions that will help to protect Americans' drinking water from contamination, including from "forever chemicals" like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are a set of human-made chemicals that can cause cancer and other severe health problems, pose a serious threat across rural, suburban, and urban areas, and that disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. PFAS are considered "forever chemicals" because they are environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative, and remain in human bodies for a long time.

NEW PUBLIC HEALTH INFORMATION

First, EPA is publishing four new drinking water lifetime health advisories for certain PFAS as part of the President's plan to combat PFAS pollution and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) PFAS Roadmap. These health advisories reflect the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to follow the science and up-to-date public health information. Specifically:

  • EPA is releasing interim updated drinking water lifetime health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) that replace those issued by EPA in 2016. The updated advisory levels are based on new science that indicates that some negative health effects may occur with concentrations of PFOA or PFOS in water that are near zero
  • EPA is also releasing final health advisories for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid and its potassium salt (PFBS), and hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt ("GenX" chemicals). In chemical and product manufacturing, GenX chemicals are considered a replacement for PFOA, and PFBS is considered a replacement for PFOS.

INFRASTRUCTURE GRANTS TO ADDRESS WATER POLLUTION

Second, EPA is making available $1 billion in grant funding through President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help communities that are on the frontlines of PFAS contamination, the first of $5 billion through the Law that can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts. These funds can be used in small or disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants like PFAS in drinking water through actions such as technical assistance, water quality testing, contractor training, and installation of centralized treatment technologies and systems.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a historic $5 billion in a new Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant Program for states to reduce PFAS and other contaminants in drinking water in underserved communities. In total, the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $10 billion in funding to specifically address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in water.

EPA will be reaching out to states and territories with information on how to submit their letter of intent to participate in this new grant program. EPA will also consult with Tribes and Alaskan Native Villages regarding the Tribal set-aside for this grant program. This funding complements $3.4 billion in funding that is going through the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) and $3.2 billion through the Clean Water SRFs that can also be used to address PFAS in water this year.

TOOLS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERMMENTS

Third, in addition to these resources outlined above, the Administration is outlining additional tools state and local governments can use to address PFAS pollution and protect drinking water:

  • Implementing a recently-launched new nationwide monitoring program for PFAS in water systems to detect more types of PFAS, at lower levels, in more drinking water systems;
  • Proactively using the EPA's Clean Water Act federal permitting authorities to restrict discharges of PFAS at the source and to obtain more comprehensive monitoring information on potential sources of PFAS;
  • Developing a national drinking water standard for certain PFAS that will be proposed this fall; and
  • Publishing the results of water quality tests in non-DOD drinking water systems that are located near and downstream of military installations.

ADDITIONAL COORDINATED STEPS TO TACKLE PFAS

The White House is coordinating a government-wide approach to emerging science and policy in real-time. The Council on Environmental Quality leads the Interagency Policy Committee on PFAS and the Office of Science and Technology Policy continues to coordinate accelerated PFAS research within the National Science and Technology Council's Joint Subcommittee on Environment, Innovation, and Public Health. Both groups continue to assess the need for new policies and scientific research that result from emerging information about PFAS. There will also be enhanced coordination by senior leadership and staff from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, and Council on Environmental Quality under the Interagency Policy Committee on PFAS concerning issues around military installations and their communities to accelerate solutions and increase transparency.

Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to work with Congress to secure the President's Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request, which includes $126 million for EPA to assess the impacts of PFAS on human health and advance technologies needed to detect PFAS in water. The Administration is also prioritizing prevention of contaminated water supplies as part of the re-ignited Cancer Moonshot to end cancer as we know it which is a pillar of the President's Unity Agenda for the country.

Outlined below is how the Biden-Harris Administration is leveraging tools from across the government to restrictPFAS from entering the nation's water, air, land, and food; clean up PFAS pollution and holding polluters accountable; and accelerate research and development on PFAS science and solutions.

Restricting PFAS from entering Americans' water, air, land, and food:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing to expand its testing of the food supply, including expanding its PFAS analysis method development and announcing additional testing results from the general food supply and targeted testing of seafood as those results become available.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) has amended the Dairy Indemnity Payment Program regulations to compensate dairy farmers whose cows cannot be put on the market due to PFAS contamination.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is leading a set of initiatives to investigate and remediate PFAS and protect emergency responders, including the first-ever inventory of PFAS use and prior releases from its facilities, like fire-fighting foam and possible water source contamination.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented a policy to eliminate the discharge of firefighting foam containing PFAS for testing purposes, and has also provided funding for airports to use systems that do not require the discharge of foam. FAA is partnering with DOD on research on PFAS-free firefighting foam.

Cleaning up PFAS pollution and to hold polluters accountable:

 

  • In the coming weeks, EPA will issue a proposed rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which will enable EPA to leverage the full range of Superfund authorities, including requiring reporting of PFOA and PFOS releases and to hold polluters accountable by recovering cleanup costs.

 

  • EPA has developed a National PFAS Testing Strategy and has issued the first in a series of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) test orders to require companies to conduct and submit testing PFAS.
  • EPA recently added five PFAS to the list of Regional Screening Levels (RSLs) and Regional Removal Management Levels (RMLs), which help EPA determine if further investigation or actions are needed to protect public health in locations where PFAS is detected.
  • DOD will issue guidance in early summer to implement EPA's recently updated Regional Screening Levels (RSLs) for PFAS across DOD's PFAS sites nationwide. These lower values will incorporate the latest peer-reviewed science and will result in more sites moving forward in the cleanup process.
  • DOD continues to address its PFAS releases and has completed initial assessments at over 300 of 700 installations and started 168 remedial investigations, the next step in the cleanup process. DOD is also continuing research and demonstration on over 100 projects related to PFAS treatment technologies, sampling, analysis, and monitoring.

Accelerating the research and development of PFAS science and solutions include:

 

  • ATSDR is partnering with EPA to expand on the environmental measurements gathered as part of ongoing PFAS exposure assessments. The investigation will collect environmental samples to evaluate levels of PFAS in the indoor and outdoor environment that may contribute to elevated levels of PFAS in blood in study participants.

 

  • The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has been funded by CDC/ATSDR and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to review the current evidence regarding human health effects of PFAS that will help inform clinician guidance regarding PFAS exposure.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing a new reference material, expected to be available by the end of the year, for PFAS in aqueous firefighting foams, a fire suppressant used in firefighting. NIST is working with organizations including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the US Fire Administration on research to understand how much PFAS from the foams gets on fire-fighting gear and how PFAS is released, including exposure from use of Personal Protective Equipment, to help reduce a firefighter's risk of being exposed to PFAS.

Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Combatting PFAS Pollution to Safeguard Clean Drinking Water for All Americans Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/356468

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