October 27, 2021

EPA responds to governor’s petition regarding PFAS contamination

Cannon AFB courtesy photo: VIRIN: 101010-F-YG475-003.JPG

PFAS chemicals were used in firefighting foam in military bases across the country, including at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, until 2016.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responded in a letter dated Tuesday, Oct. 26 to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s petition to list PFAS, or per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as hazardous waste.

In the letter, the EPA stated that it is moving forward with a rulemaking process that will list several of the thousands of PFAS chemicals as hazardous constituents under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

In a press release following the letter response, Lujan Grisham applauded EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan for “affirming my petition and empowering states to follow New Mexico’s lead in holding PFAS polluters accountable.”

PFAS has a broad range of applications from household products like non-stick cookware to use in hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry. In New Mexico, it has received attention after fire suppression foam used in training exercises at military bases contaminated nearby groundwater with the chemicals. It can lead to a variety of health consequences for the public including premature births and cancer.

“The fight is not over,” Lujan Grisham said. “New Mexico will continue to lead on the issue of PFAS contamination—because everyone deserves to live in a community free of environmental contamination.”

In the letter to Lujan Grisham, Regan said the EPA is committed to working with states “to protect Americans from these chemicals, which can cause serious health problems and persist in the environment once released, posing a serious threat across rural, suburban and urban areas.”

The letter further highlights the strategic roadmap the EPA released on Oct. 18 that details steps that the agency plans to take to address PFAS contamination, hold polluters accountable and prevent future pollution.

In response to the governor’s petition, the EPA is initiating a rulemaking process to add four types of PFAS chemicals to the list of hazardous constituents under RCRA, which will affect the disposal of wastes containing those chemicals.

Additionally, in the letter, Regan said the EPA is initiating a rulemaking process to clarify that the RCRA Corrective Action Program “has the authority to require investigation and clean up of wastes that meet the statutory definition of hazardous waste.” This would clarify that emerging hazardous wastes like PFAS are eligible for corrective action.

These two actions represent a partial granting of the governor’s petition.