Washington, DC, May 21, 2019 — The White House Office of Management and Budget website has publicly posted a document entitled “OMB Review Redline Version” of the USEPA Draft Interim Recommendations to Address Groundwater Contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate that significantly narrows much of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to address toxic groundwater contamination from the two fluorinated compounds known as PFOA and PFOS.
“It appears that one of the Trump administration’s few public health initiatives is being gutted before it is even finalized,” according to PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA. “These edits read as if they were written by a law firm representing corporate polluters.”
EPA’s draft recommendations have already been widely criticized for several reasons, including a dangerously lax proposed exposure limit, coverage of only PFOA and PFOA, two of the more than thousands of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances referred to as PFAS compounds, and failure to fill in legal gaps that leave PFAS largely unregulated.
“OMB Review Redline Version” makes edits to EPA’s draft recommendations that further restrict its scope and impact, including making changes that –
- Confine EPA cleanups to contaminated drinking water, while at the same time foreswearing EPA reliance upon remedial authority it possesses under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This also signals that contaminated groundwater and soil would be ignored;
- Limit cleanups to sites already subject to Superfund due to contamination from other pollutants, while precluding PFAS contamination itself as a basis for Superfund designation; and
- Delete a directive that states “Federal agencies are responsible for cleaning up groundwater and other contamination at their facilities.”
“The upshot is that the U.S. will not be equipped to effectively address a major and growing threat to public health,” added Bennett, pointing out that PFAS do not break down in the environment and bioaccumulate in the food chain, and are associated with birth defects, developmental damage to infants, the liver, kidneys, and immune system, as well as a cancer risk. “Today more than 16 million Americans drink water contaminated with PFAS and that at-risk population will steadily grow unless something far more aggressive is done – and soon.”
EPA’s draft recommendations are open for comment until June 10. Even if adopted, key elements, such as adopting a maximum contamination limit for PFAS (EPA today only has guidelines) will require future regulatory action by an EPA which has exhibited speed of late only when seeking to repeal regulations.
See the OMB red-line edits