The EPA is taking action to better understand who is using PFAS chemicals in what quantities and how they’re being used.
The federal organization that oversees environmental regulations will then use this data to draft policies and laws that could have a significant impact on companies that manufacture products containing PFAS chemicals.
If you’re one of these companies, how the final rule released Sept. 28 isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when it will impact your operations. And for most companies, that begins now.
Under the rule, manufacturers and importers of PFAS and PFAS-containing items must provide information on their uses, the amounts they produce, byproducts, potential toxicity and exposures, and disposal methods.
You must submit this information to the EPA for EACH PFAS chemical for EACH year you manufactured the substance or imported it since Jan. 1, 2011, “to the extent the information is known or reasonably ascertainable,” according to the EPA.
The final rule - a key action in the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap - gives you 18 months to provide this information, though if you are a small manufacturer, you have 24 months if you’re solely reporting data on importing PFAS contained in articles.
Here’s what you need to know about how your company’s operations may further be impacted and what is required of you now to ensure you are staying compliant.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistent nature, have widespread use and remarkable durability. These substances consist of carbon and fluorine atoms bonded together, creating an exceptionally strong structure that resists degradation over time.
PFAS are found in a number of applications across industries such as aerospace, automotive, construction and electronics. They are also present in various products, including:
- Stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpets
- Cleaning agents
- Fire-fighting foams
- Food packaging
- Food processing equipment
While human exposure to these synthetic compounds varies based on factors like location and occupation, health concerns arise due to their presence in soil, air and water. Recognizing these concerns, the EPA has intensified its efforts to develop technologies for PFAS removal from drinking water and soil.
One aspect of this research involves determining safe disposal methods for PFAS-containing materials. Federal agency researchers are currently conducting tests to identify the most effective techniques for destroying and disposing of PFAS, which may include methods like incineration or landfilling. They are also exploring measures to safeguard nearby water, soil and air from potential exposure.
How Many PFAS Are Included?
In the final rule, the EPA includes an additional 100 chemicals that were not included in the proposed rule. According to the agency, the additional substances are likely to be persistent in the environment and include PFAS with nonadjacent fluorinated carbons, PFAS with unconnected CF2 or CF3 moieties, and high-molecular-weight fluoropolymers.
Altogether, there are more than 1,460 PFAS now subject to the new reporting requirements.
What Authority Does The EPA Have To Obtain Data?
The EPA is using its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to require companies to submit this data.
The agency must accomplish this under a provision in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that requires all manufacturers, including importers, of PFAS and PFAS-containing articles in any year since 2011 to report information related to chemical identity, uses, volumes made and processed, byproducts, environmental and health effects, worker exposure and disposal.
It’s important to note that since the EPA proposed this rule in 2021, the agency has offered opportunities for public comment and stakeholder input.
What Is The PFAS Roadmap?
The PFAS Roadmap 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 to protect communities from emerging contaminants like PFAS.
Actions taken as part of the roadmap have included developing a national testing strategy requiring companies to conduct testing and requiring nationwide sampling for 29 PFAs in drinking water, as well as expanding the scientific understanding of PFAS by issuing more than 30 scientific publications by EPA researchers.
In anticipation of potential changes in environmental regulations, it’s essential for your business to be well-prepared. Some companies may find themselves navigating hazardous waste regulations for the first time.
If your company currently manufactures products containing PFAS, it’s crucial to start preparing for upcoming changes in waste disposal requirements. Collaborating with certified hazardous waste disposal companies can help ensure your compliance with both existing and future regulations.
The most reputable waste disposal companies actively monitor pending legislation and strategize how these laws will impact your specific business or organization. This proactive approach enables you to begin planning ahead, positioning your company to update its waste management practices in a timely manner, rather than scrambling at the last minute to secure proper waste disposal solutions.
What should you look for in a waste disposal company? When seeking waste disposal services, it’s vital to partner with a company experienced in handling the specific type of waste your business generates. Hazardous waste encompasses various categories, each with its own disposal requirements.
The top disposal companies possess a deep understanding of Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs) and the types of waste they accept. Given that these facilities also adapt to legislative changes, having a disposal company that maintains constant communication with TSDFs is essential for seamless disposal processes.
Leading disposal companies also offer services like waste stream identification through profiling and testing, as well as a comprehensive evaluation program for your waste procedures, called a walk-through program. This consultative approach becomes increasingly valuable as laws evolve, helping you gain a better understanding of how impending legislation might impact your waste management practices.
Other services typically provided by hazardous waste disposal companies include:
- Transportation of your waste to appropriate recycling and disposal sites
- Documentation confirming proper waste disposal
- Required transport documentation, such as manifests
- On-site storage evaluations
The best disposal company will also provide transparent and competitive free quotes, ensuring that you have a clear understanding of the costs involved in waste management services.
By collaborating with a hazardous waste disposal company, your business can better adapt its waste management plan and procedures to evolving laws, ensuring that you remain on the path to success.