EPA Puts Companies on the Hook for PFAS Cleanup

Rule change could cost companies that release toxic substances billions
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2024 3:50 PM CDT
EPA Puts Companies on the Hook for PFAS Cleanup
FILE - Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, on May 12, 2021. The Environmental Protection Agency has designated two "forever chemicals" that have been used in cookware, carpets and firefighting foams as hazardous...   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a change that will shift the burden for cleaning up two "forever chemicals" from government to the companies responsible for the pollution. The rule designates the manmade compounds as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, the New York Times reports. The Biden administration's change affects perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, known as PFOS; both are among the chemicals referred to as PFAS. Companies that use or manufacture them now will have to monitor releases into the environment and clean them up, which could cost billions.

The toxic chemicals can be imported to the US in goods such as carpet, leather, apparel, textiles, and paper. They're common in the nation's waterways, per the Hill, and contamination has been found in areas near chemical plants and military bases. Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Friday that the new policy will allow the EPA to "address more contaminated sites, take earlier action, and expedite cleanups." Ken Cook, of the advocacy organization Environmental Working Group, welcomed the new rule but said it should have been enacted sooner.

"This comes too late for all the people who were poisoned without their knowledge or consent and have paid the price for one of the greatest environmental crimes in history," he said. The head of the Superfund Research Center said the rule could end the use of PFAS chemicals in products such as nonstick cookware. But large-scale industrial products such as industrial pipes and airplane wings probably won't be affected, Ranier Lohmann said. Hundreds of municipalities have sued manufacturers of PFAS over contamination of water and soil. 3M reached a $10.3 billion settlement with cities and towns last year without admitting liability. (The Biden administration just set new limits on the chemicals in drinking water.)

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