If you aren’t prepared for changing environmental regulations that impact how companies handle PFAS chemicals, you may find yourself scrambling to make sure your business is compliant.
Environmental laws are constantly evolving, and among some of the newest ones is a series of initiatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that addresses how communities will be protected against emerging contaminants like PFAS.
Dubbed the “PFAS Roadmap,” the initiative includes implementing several changes in areas like hazardous waste disposal, water health advisories, testing requirements and public engagement.
If your company manufacturers products that contain PFAS chemicals, it’s critical that your own company’s roadmap aligns with any regulations currently in place or about to become law. Here’s what you need to know about how your business operations may be impacted and what you can do to ensure both your business and your community are protected.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are also known as “forever chemicals.” They are widely used and long lasting, and their components slowly break down very slowly over time.
PFAS are widely used in industries like aerospace, automotive, construction and electronics. They are also found in products like:
- Stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting
- Cleaning products
- Fire-fighting foams
- Food packaging
- Food processing equipment
PFAS include a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. This bond is extremely strong, and because of this, these chemicals do not degrade easily in the environment. While human exposure to these manmade chemicals is widespread, how much an individual is exposed is typically based on factors like geography and occupation.
However, health concerns are widespread since PFAS are found in soil, air and water. These concerns have led the EPA to increase its efforts in understanding the health risks associated with PFAS and technologies that can help remove it from drinking water and soil.
Among this research are efforts to better understand how to safely dispose of materials that contain PFAS, according to the EPA. Researchers at federal agencies are currently performing tests to determine the best methods to destroy and dispose of PFAS, which may include incineration, landfilling or others, and how to protect any adjacent water, soil or air from exposure.
What Is The PFAS Roadmap?
These efforts have led to the development of the PFAS Roadmap, which aims to “safeguard public health, protect the environment and hold polluters accountable,” according to the EPA.
The roadmap includes a plan to invest $10 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law in solutions to protect communities from emerging contaminants like PFAS.
Over the past year, the EPA has taken several actions as part of the roadmap, including:
- Proposing to designate two PFAS as CERCLA hazardous substances
- Releasing drinking water health advisories for four PFAS
- Laying the foundation for enhancing data on PFAS, including implementing a national testing strategy requiring companies to conduct testing and requiring nationwide sampling for 29 PFAs in drinking water starting in 2023
- Expanding the scientific understanding of PFAS by issuing more than 30 scientific publications by EPA researchers
- Translating the latest science into EPA’s cross-agency PFAS efforts
- Continuing engagement with the public
In the upcoming year, the EPA plans to propose national drink water standards for PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS. The agency says it also plans to move forward with the regulatory process for CERCLAS hazardous-substance designations.
If you’re a business that manufactures goods that contain PFAS, let’s dive into why this component of the EPA’s PFAS Roadmap matters.
How Can A Business Be Impacted?
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, is also known as Superfund. This law authorizes the President to respond to threatened releases of hazardous substances into the environment.
The EPA is now proposing that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) be designated as hazardous substances under CERCLA. According to the EPA, both can accumulate in the body and may lead to health issues like cancer, reproductive, developmental, cardiovascular, liver and immunological effects.
The designation change may encourage better waste management and treatment practices, according to the EPA, and in some circumstances, allow the EPA to seek the recovery of cleanup costs in cases of improper disposal.
As potential changes to environmental laws come down the pipeline, it’s important for your business to be prepared. Some companies may even find themselves dealing with hazardous waste laws for the first time.
If you’re a company that currently manufactures products that contain PFAS,, it’s important to begin getting prepared for any upcoming changes in waste disposal requirements. Working with certified hazardous waste disposal companies can help to ensure you are meeting all current AND future regulations. The best waste disposal companies monitor pending legislation and prepare for how these laws will impact your specific business or organization.
This knowledge allows you to begin planning now, putting your company in a position to update your waste management practices proactively so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to secure proper waste disposal.
What Should A Waste Disposal Company Offer?
When searching for waste disposal services, it’s important to connect with a company that is experienced in the type of waste you generate. There are many types of hazardous waste, and products that contain PFAS could soon be added to that growing list.
The best disposal companies are familiar with Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDF) and what each accepts. As these facilities also grapple with legislative changes, you will want a disposal company by your side that is in constant communication with TSDFs so that disposal can go as seamlessly as possible.
The best disposal companies will also offer the ability to identify waste streams through profiling and testing, as well as a walk-through program to evaluate your waste procedures. This program is especially important as laws evolve because it is consultative in nature and will help you better understand how any upcoming legislation may impact your waste procedures.
Other services that hazardous waste disposal companies offer include:
- Transportation of your waste to the proper recycling and disposal sites
- Evidence that your waste has been properly disposed of
- Provided documentation that is required for transport, such as manifests
- Evaluation of storage on-site
A hazardous waste disposal company will put your company in the best position to adapt your waste management plan and procedures to changing laws so that you can ensure you stay on your own roadmap to success.