As the regulatory landscape of PFAS continues to evolve, the interplay of legislation, litigation, and technological advancements demands ongoing vigilance from regulatory bodies, industries, and the public to navigate a future that properly addresses the risks and liabilities related to PFAS contamination.
By Ryan Moore

The absence of comprehensive federal regulations for PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) poses challenges across many business sectors, perhaps none more so than the waste and recycling industry. While the EPA has advanced significantly on its PFAS Strategic Roadmap, the agency’s guiding framework for developing regulations to address the ‘forever chemicals’, there is much yet to be done. As a result, the sector must navigate through a complex, uncertain, and evolving regulatory landscape relating to waste acceptance, leachate management, and potential downstream liabilities due to PFAS leaching out of waste containment systems and impacting groundwater.

In a recent webinar, as part of a Distinguished Speaker webinar series, Taryn McKnight, PFAS Practice Leader with Eurofins Environment Testing USA, shared what she coined the current “PFAS State of the Union”, updating EPA’s progress on the PFAS Action Plan over the previous year and pending milestones. Following are key regulatory updates from McKnight’s presentation, including those that could significantly impact waste and recycling facilities’ business operations.

Reporting Requirements for PFAS Expanded under TSCA and TRI
In the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the EPA proposed reporting and record-keeping requirements for PFAS. After a delay, the rule was finalized in September 2021, mandating reporting from those who manufactured or imported PFAS since January 2011 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Information to be reported includes uses, production volumes, byproducts, environmental and health effects, workers’ exposure, and disposal. In 2023, the PFAS reporting requirement was expanded significantly to include articles using any amount of PFAS in their manufacturing process (i.e., no minimum reporting exemptions). The EPA anticipates that this rule will substantially increase the number of facilities reporting under TRI and provide comprehensive data on more than 1,300 PFAS compounds.

The EPA has also updated the Toxics Release Inventory rule (TRI) to address PFAS reporting obligations, now including 189 PFAS with a threshold of 100 pounds per year. The new rule classifies PFAS as chemicals of special concern, removing the exemption that allowed facilities to avoid reporting PFAS used in minimal (<1 percent) concentrations. Purchasers now need to be notified about mixtures or trade name products with PFAS, regardless of concentration.
The modified rule, published in June 2023, should provide more detailed information on the specific PFAS wastes received at landfills, and add to the reporting requirements for operators receiving these wastes. Initial TRI reports are due in July 2025 for the 2024 reporting year.

A National PFAS Testing Strategy Evolves
The problem with defining PFAS lies at the heart of regulating specific PFAS compounds. The EPA is managing the National PFAS Testing Strategy (under TSCA) to address the challenge of categorizing potentially thousands or, at least by one definition, millions of PFAS compounds. Using available test data, the agency categorizes PFAS based on structural and chemical similarities. The goal is to obtain critical information on more than 2,000 similar PFAS within these categories. However, due to limitations in finding manufacturers for test orders, only 24 compounds have been targeted so far.

In 2023, the EPA issued three new test orders, two earlier in the year and one in August, with a focus on hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA or GenX)-related compounds. This ongoing effort is expected to yield substantial information in the long run, even if it is not immediately rewarding.

Destruction and Disposal Guidelines for PFAS Remain to be Published
The EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) had been working to meet a 2023 congressional deadline (now past) to publish an update to their PFAS destruction and disposal guidance. The finalized guidance is anticipated to address analytical tools for demonstrating successful PFAS destruction and provide guidance on their usage. PFAS stockpiles have been growing across the U.S. in anticipation of this rule.

There has been a historical disconnect between state and federal priorities regarding biosolids. The PFAS roadmap outlines the EPA’s plan to complete a risk assessment of PFAS in biosolids by winter 2024, specifically focusing on PFOA and PFAS. Meanwhile, states have grappled with biosolids regulations, including restrictions on land applications and appropriate limits. The EPA, the Environmental Council of the States, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture have partnered to address this issue.

In October 2023, the EPA administrator pledged collaboration to preserve management methods like land application, incineration, and landfilling while ensuring human health protection. Given the toxicity of PFAS, this represents a formidable challenge. In 2021, large facilities applied 43 percent of biosolids to land, landfilled 42 percent, and incinerated 14 percent.


On the left, firefighting foams containing PFAS are sprayed onto an airport runway, causing a PFAS plume to develop in groundwater. On the right, colloidal activated carbon is applied into the subsurface beneath the release source (SourceStop) and in a downgradient barrier (PlumeStop) to reduce PFAS to non-detect in groundwater and effectively eliminate PFAS risk. Where PFAS risks and liabilities require mitigation, Regenesis’ in situ PFAS filtration approach can be deployed to provide a proven solution that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 98 percent and is 65 percent more cost-effective than leading pump and treat alternatives.

CERCLA and RCRA PFAS Regulations Now Due in Early 2024
The EPA moved its self-imposed deadline to regulate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) from August 2023 to February 2024. Likewise, the deadline to designate PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and HFPO-DA as hazardous constituents under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was missed.

Under RCRA, these chemicals would be subject to corrective action and regulations for hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal. The designation as RCRA hazardous waste would also classify them as hazardous substances under CERCLA. Moreover, evaluations about listing these chemicals as hazardous air pollutants are ongoing, which would also automatically categorize them as hazardous substances under CERCLA.

The ‘hazardous’ designations possible using these various pathways will have significant and far-reaching implications for cleanup and liability across many business categories. For example, the EPA has identified nearly 200 Superfund sites with PFAS contamination and is considering reopening closed sites on a case-by-case basis. Protracted legal battles to identify responsible parties for PFAS contamination are expected.

Wastewater Effluent Limitation Guidelines for Landfills Scheduled for 2025
In January 2023, the EPA released the final effluent guidelines in Program Plan 15, which indicated it would not pursue further action for certain categories, but committed to ongoing monitoring. However, the 2023 NDAA introduced stipulations under the Clean Water Act, mandating the EPA to publish PFAS effluent limitation guidelines for specific categories, with a deadline of June 2025 for landfills. This contrasts with the EPA’s original plan, and it remains uncertain if Program Plan 15 will be updated to align with congressional mandates.

The EPA also announced plans to conduct a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) influent study of PFAS. Currently, the EPA is developing an information collection request to gather data on PFAS entering wastewater treatment plants. The goal is to identify industrial sectors requiring technology-based effluent limits and the EPA aims to collect these data starting in 2024.
In addition to Program Plan 15, the EPA issued guidance to states, recommending quarterly monitoring for 40 PFAS. While some states like Massachusetts and Colorado have incorporated PFAS monitoring into certain industrial discharge permits, widespread adoption is lacking, and there appears to be reluctance. The EPA assists states by providing additional resources on its website, including template permits, discharge limits, FAQs, training materials, and a new best management practices fact sheet.

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations to Take Effect in 2024
The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) establishes drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, requiring monitoring of these and other compounds. UCMR 5 has lower reporting limits for PFAS than the earlier UCMR 3, using two analytical methods (533 and 537.1) to capture a comprehensive list of PFAS compounds.

Preliminary results from the current UCMR 5 reveal that PFOA and PFAS were detected above health advisory levels in about 10 percent of public water systems (PWSs) sampled, representing approximately 20 percent of all PWSs. Interestingly, a nationwide study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) revealed 12 additional PFAS not covered by UCMR 5.

Regarding drinking water standards, the EPA has proposed a national primary drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFAS. Originally scheduled for the end of 2023, a final rule is now anticipated in the first half of 2024, pending review by the Office of Management and Budgets (OMB). The rule sets an incredibly low limit of four parts per trillion for PFOA and PFAS and includes a hazard index approach to assess risk for other compounds. These drinking water limits will function as risk-based screening levels (RSLs), which will be heavily relied upon to determine whether further investigation or site cleanup actions are necessary at a PFAS-impacted site..

Navigating the Future of PFAS Regulation
As the regulatory landscape of PFAS continues to evolve, challenges persist in defining, monitoring, and remediating these pervasive substances. The interplay of legislation, litigation, and technological advancements demands ongoing vigilance from regulatory bodies, industries, and the public to navigate a future that properly addresses the risks and liabilities related to PFAS contamination. | WA

Ryan Moore is REGENESIS’ Program Director for PFAS Remediation. Over the last seven years, REGENESIS® has been at the forefront of treating PFAS cost-effectively and sustainably in groundwater, with more than 50 sites treated using its patented colloidal activated carbon (CAC) technologies. PlumeStopTM and SourceStopTM are CAC materials that quickly and effectively filter PFAS out of groundwater below the surface, retaining PFAS in place to remove the potential exposure risk. Ryan can be reached at [email protected].