Organizations closely scrutinizing PFAS, like the Environmental Working Group, are touting loudly that the Biden administration will address PFAS and speculating on how the Biden Administration might approach the chemicals by setting enforceable drinking water limits, designating the substances as hazardous and finding PFAS substitutes for consumer items.
Under President Trump, EPA touted its PFAS Action Plan and the agency’s broader work on addressing contamination by the family of thousands of chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and other severe health issues. But EPA has stalled on actions like setting a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFAS.
EPA currently has health advisories in place for two PFAS — PFOA and PFOS — of 70 parts per trillion in drinking water, but that threshold is not enforceable. No PFAS are designated as hazardous substances at present by EPA.
A new administration could, through executive action alone, set limits in drinking water through an MCL and designate PFAS as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law (CERCLA). However, such action would be subject to notice and comment rule making and then subsequent challenges to agency action – a process that could take years.