In August 2023, EPA released a best management fact sheet called Pollution Prevention Strategies for Industrial PFAS Discharges which provides information to address NPDES discharges containing PFAS under the Clean Water Act. The fact sheet aims to help permit writers and pretreatment coordinators by providing best management practices and examples. Under EPA’s new best management practices, EPA encourages permit writers and pretreatment coordinators to include PFAS monitoring limits when PFAS are present or suspected in discharges. The best management practices specifically note industrial operations such as airport operations, firefighting, chemical manufacturing, semiconductor manufacturing, chrome finishing, textile manufacturing, centralized waste treatment, landfill operations, and coatings manufacturing as industries to evaluate.
In December of last year, EPA released a memorandum to states that provides direction on how to use the Clean Water Act to monitor for PFAS discharges. EPA’s goal was to reduce discharges of PFAS at the source and limit the amount of PFAS entering wastewater and stormwater systems. The memo recommends that states use the most current sampling and analysis methods in their NPDES programs to identify known or suspected sources of PFAS. It also recommends that states act using their pretreatment and permitting authorities to impose technology-based limits on sources of PFAS discharges. Recommendations in the memo also allow EPA to obtain information through monitoring of the sources and quantities of PFAS discharges, which inform other EPA efforts to address PFAS as part of its PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The August 2023 best management practices fact sheet builds on last year’s memo by providing additional resources to improve monitoring and reduce PFAS discharges.
The best management practices encourage permit writers and pretreatment coordinators to evaluate and include numeric discharge limits based on treatment technologies using granular activated carbon, ion exchange resins, or reverse osmosis if appropriate. When not applicable to a permit, it encourages pollution prevention practices instead.
It also provides draft permit language if PFAS are found in a facility’s discharge that states:
“Within 6 months of the effective date of the permit, the facility shall provide an evaluation of whether the facility uses or has historically used any products containing PFAS, whether use of those products or legacy contamination reasonably can be reduced or eliminated, and a plan to implement those steps.”
The best management practices fact sheet also provides examples of state actions where pollution prevention initiatives have been successful including chrome plating PFAS analysis in Michigan and California, policy provisions in Colorado for site investigations, and metal finishing and aerospace PFAS discharge reductions in Vermont. Additionally, the best management practices fact sheet provides a guide to developing a facility-specific plan to monitor and implement PFAS reduction strategies.
Entities engaged in any of the industries listed in the fact sheet should evaluate their current permit cycles and permit requirements to prepare for additional information requests, and potential best management practice requirements, in future permit renewals. Regulated entities should also evaluate participation in state voluntary sampling programs to prepare for future requirements, with advice of counsel and technical consultants.
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Lathrop GPM has deep experience developing regulatory strategy and defending litigation in the area of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and we have been involved in some of the nation’s most-publicized cases. The PFAS Playbook blog is dedicated to helping readers stay up to date and understand the latest regulatory updates on PFAS.