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EPA Administrator Regan Announces PFAS Roadmap


WASHINGTON (18 October 2021)
 –Today, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the agency's comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to confront PFAS contamination nationwide. A Council on PFAS was created to do a thorough review to further science and research of these dangerous chemicals found in the environment across the nation.

"I could feel their suffering and frustration with inaction. I knew my job was going to be trying and complex," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan speaking of stories told from communities exposed to PFAS. The Roadmap acknowledges the science and that this chemical builds up in our bodies, causing adverse health effects that can devastate families.


The EPA has spent the past 50 years tasked with protecting the environment from pollution. Still, the agency has had a long list of previous controversies that have eroded communities' trust affected by harmful pollution. In 2019 the agency under a different administration pushed for a policy that would limit the science used to create regulations to prevent research into harmful effects of pollution on Americans. The agency had 20 years to take action on PFAS, failing to hold polluters accountable and allowing the chemicals to build up in Americans' bodies as they continued to be exposed.


Current regulations do not mandate that any particular health or safety studies be performed, and chemical manufacturers can claim that information on the materials used is confidential. This means that scientists cannot study the impact of these substances on humans and the ecosystem. This inhibits the ability of our government to ensure the public is safe from harmful pollution.   


"For far too long, families across America – especially those in underserved communities – have suffered from PFAS in their water, their air, or in the land, their children play on," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. 


The current agency is committed to a strategic path with research and enforcement that addresses the complete life cycle of PFAS chemicals. They pledged to take quick action on tap water by setting limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and have committed to aggressive deadlines. PFAS was designated as a hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, will also review past actions taken on PFAS under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and plant to increase monitoring, data collection, and research. They will also provide a final toxicity assessment for GenX, which are chemicals used to replace PFOA.


"PFAS contamination is a public health emergency," said Stel Bailey of Fight for Zero in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and co-facilitator of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition. "It will take more action from Congress, federal agencies, states, and local governments to do what's needed and turn off the tap of PFAS contamination. We still need funding, the National PFAS Action Act, through state legislation and rulemaking, and we need strong, enforceable drinking water standards for every person living in this country. The EPA's leadership in releasing this plan is an important step in the right direction."


Cancer cases reported in 2018


CAN THE AGENCY DO MORE TO PROTECT HEALTH


The Roadmap also shows the importance of community involvement in these decisions. It falls short of taking preventative actions like regulating fish and banning PFAS from commerce or putting a short-term moratorium on them while testing. While the plan is expansive and they are working with other departments, there's no plan to stop the pollution completely.


There are no safe, proven disposal methods for PFAS, and the EPA didn’t address how these chemicals will be safely cleaned up. There was no action on incineration and landfill, and no deadlines set for biosolids.  They could have required that all wastewater treatment plants test biosolids before letting farmers contaminate their crops with PFAS, known to uptake into food like apples.


Affected communities like Brevard County, Florida, dealing with multiple PFAS contamination sources from the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA would like to see federal bans on PFAS to prevent further widespread environmental contamination. The Department of Defense had five decades to address PFAS at sites throughout the country swiftly. They knew that these chemicals were harmful in the 70s and continued to use PFAS firefighting foam. These chemicals washed into the Indian River Lagoon, contaminated soil, drinking water sources, and wildlife. The EPA shouldn’t let the DOD escape its role in polluting the world with these forever chemicals.


Both PFOA and PFOS were designated a hazardous substance, and it will be done relatively quickly, which will begin PFAS cleanup at some of the most contaminated sites in the United States. The FDA, FAA, and DOD could be more present in these discussions. 


The agency plans to regulate PFAS in groupings rather than as a class. Some of the timelines are too slow, and the EPA admits that the problem is so complex and big that they will need partnerships everywhere.


THE EPA WANTS TO BUILD BACK TRUST


"I appreciate citizen activists and nonprofits calling for aggressive action. We need to continue the partnership of our advocacy group and community activists. They play such an important role. They made us listen. I heard you. We learned from you, and we are learning from your experience. You all have inspired me to never give up and to keep pushing that envelope." - EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.



The EPA expressed the importance of communicating with those affected by PFAS exposure and fighting for their communities. Having this collaboration creates an open dialogue and shows that the agency is committed to building trust. They want to give nonprofit organizations the capability to conduct necessary research and ensure that those affected have the opportunity to be included in the decision-making. Meanwhile, as we continue to study chemicals linked to cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and other illnesses, children across the country are still being exposed. 

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan says, “Why should we trust the EPA now? So many communities have been let down time and time again. You’re tired of feeling like no one is listening. One thing I learned is that trust must be earned, and I know you need to see action, and I believe the national strategy shows and demonstrates strong action.”

Working closely with partners like the Department of Defense, who haven’t been transparent along with decades of inaction, may make communities skeptical of this new plan. Time will tell if the EPA will honor their commitment, keep promises, and have the courage to say no to polluters who are harming communities. We will continue to push for zero PFAS pollution in our ecosystem by standing beside national advocates and holding the EPA accountable to ensure communities impacted by PFAS contamination achieve their goals.

We hope that this roadmap leads to an expanded pathway into regulating chemicals in a way that the agency has never done before. We have gone too many decades repeating chemical disasters that have affected the health of millions of Americans. The burden of proof should have never been on the people exposed when we have agencies in place that are supposed to protect us.


PFAS National Contamination Coalition: https://pfasproject.net/ 


About Fight For Zero: We are a nonprofit organization in the state of Florida with a mission to improve the quality of life for Floridians and future generations by fighting for zero pollution in the water, air, and soil. We formed in December 2018 to support local organizing for clean, toxic-free water and health-protecting through the sharing of stories, information, experiences, references, data, and connections with experts in their fields.


Media Coordinator: Hannah Catherine at team@fight4zero.org 


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