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Regulatory Updates

EPA Solicits Comments on PFAS Discharges in Five Point Source Categories

Rachel Mireles | September 23, 2021

In September 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15. EPA prepares Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plans pursuant to Clean Water Act (CWA) section 304(m). Preliminary plans provide a description of the EPA’s annual review of effluent guidelines and pretreatment standards, consistent with CWA sections 301(d), 304(b), 304(g), 304(m), and 307(b). From these reviews, preliminary plans identify any new or existing industrial categories selected for effluent guidelines or pretreatment standards rulemakings and provide a schedule for such rulemakings. In addition, preliminary plans present any new or existing categories of industry selected for further review and analysis.

Specifically related to Per – and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) discharges, the EPA is publishing a separate study (Multi-Industry Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Study -2021 Preliminary Report, U.S. EPA 2021d) that focuses on five (5) point source categories (PSCs) in the manufacture, use, treatment and discharge of PFAS:

  • Organic chemical, plastics, and synthetic fibers (OCPSFs)
  • Metal finishing
  • Pulp, paper, and paperboard
  • Textile mills
  • Commercial airports

The Preliminary Plan 15 does not specifically address whether there are draft limits being considered, instead it announces that the EPA is initiating new rulemakings for two (2) PSCs related to PFAS discharges:

  1. EPA plans to revise the existing OCPSF Effluent Limit Guidelines (ELGs) (40 CFR Part 414) to address PFAS discharges from facilities manufacturing PFAS.
  2. EPA plans to revise the existing Metal Finishing ELGs (40 CFR Part 433) to address PFAS discharges from chromium electroplating facilities.

Studies are ongoing in the remaining three (3) PSCs for PFAS discharges and the EPA intends to provide updates on subsequent ELG Program Plans.

The process for developing or revising ELGs is a lengthy one involving data collection within industry practices, characteristics of discharges (e.g., pollutants, flow variability, stormwater), technologies or practices used to prevent or treat the discharge and economic characteristics.

EPA identifies the best available technology that is economically achievable for that industry and sets regulatory requirements based on the performance of that technology. The Effluent Guidelines do not require facilities to install the particular technology identified by EPA; however, the regulations do require facilities to achieve the regulatory standards which were developed based on a particular model technology.

The EPA seeks public comment on the entirety of Program Plan 15, but specifically on the development and revision of ELGs for OCPSFs and Metal Finishers (specifically chrome plating facilities). Comments are due by October 15, 2021. Industries mentioned above would be required to comply with the new regulatory PFAS discharge requirements, so it is beneficial to submit comments regarding Preliminary Plan 15 to the EPA providing additional insight into the affected businesses, identifying items that EPA may have overlooked or not considered, how best available technologies and ELGs would impact their operations and budgets, and providing suggestions for the development of the subject ELGs so that EPA decisions can be made with all the pertinent information.

Rachel Mireles

Rachel Mireles is a passionate and ambitious engineer with a wide variety of experience. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Management. She worked in manufacturing for 10 years before changing paths to the environmental sector. She is now an Environmental Compliance Manager at TRC where she works with clients from various industries including aerospace, automotive, food production, pharmaceutical, medical devices, municipal entities and local governments, and Transactional Advisory Services. She handles permitting and compliance related tasks, as well as Phase I’s and Environmental Audits. She also serves as a Board Member for the Industrial Environmental Coalition of Orange County, CA.

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