Friday 22 March 2024

PFAS Regulatory Hearings in the Senate – Our Take

For those unaware, the Senate held a hearing this week regarding regulating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (#PFAS) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). If this happens, sites badly contaminated by PFAS would be subject to enforcement under CERCLA, meaning those parties responsible for the contamination would have to pay for its cleanup. This proposal is separate from the proposals to regulate PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act (which would require drinking water treatment plants to monitor and treat for PFAS) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (which would create rules to treat PFAS-containing substances as hazardous constituents).

At BioLargo, obviously we have strong opinions in this situation (we’re selling PFAS treatment solutions!), but we think most people will agree that regulating PFAS under CERCLA is good thing. Why? Because it will help ensure that these badly contaminated lands get remediated, and protect future generations from these damaging contaminants. It will also hold polluters responsible, and create a budget for sites to get cleaned up (and as a reminder, if a polluter can’t be identified, the “superfund” helps pay for its cleanup). Finally, regulating PFAS under CERCLA is an admission that PFAS is a problem that demands a solution that is  “cradle-to-grave”, meaning you shouldn’t just sequester PFAS in a landfill somewhere.

The Senate meeting this week was held to discuss the potential for creating a carve-out exception under the proposed CERCLA PFAS rules for “passive receivers”, which are sites or facilities that receive PFAS-containing materials incidentally, rather than it being something they generate as part of their business. Examples of passive receivers include wastewater treatment facilities and landfills. The hearing helped illuminate how the federal government is looking at tackling the issue of PFAS-contaminated sites, and how they hope to hold polluters responsible while not causing undue collateral damage.

Some highlights from the hearing:

  • The committee’s main concern was that “passive receivers” of PFAS-containing materials might be on the hook for PFAS cleanup if the chemicals are regulated under CERCLA with no provisions to protect them.
  • Handling of PFAS-laden wastes, and the costs associated with that waste, was a concern to committee members.
  • Members of the committee mentioned that carbon filtration and ion exchange are the ”best available” treatment options – from our perspective, this is basically the government acknowledging that GAC and ion exchange are the only technologies already available (so far) at large-scale to solve the problem, even though they’re in many ways not ideally suited to treat PFAS. These technologies have real downsides: they have “blind spots” of short-chain PFAS species that they struggle to remove, and they generate a lot of solid waste in the process of treatment.  We believe these solutions will fall short in the long run!
  • While the committee was split on the particulars of who should be held responsible for PFAS contamination and how, no one argued that PFAS isn’t dangerous and shouldn’t be treated.

It’s at this point that we have to remind everyone that BioLargo’s PFAS treatment solution, the Aqueous Electrostatic Concentrator (AEC) is an ideal solution to treat PFAS in a post-CERCLA regulations world. Why? Because the AEC is designed from the ground up to concentrate PFAS onto an extremely small surface area – meaning it creates far less PFAS-laden waste than things like ion exchange or carbon filtration.

We stand ready to help industry and passive receivers clean up their water, as well as their waste streams including wastewater and leachate, and help them minimize their CERCLA liability exposure.

As the situation regarding PFAS regulations evolve, we’ll try to keep people updated! I will be presenting next week at the MWEA/AWWA 2024 Join Annual Meeting about these topics, and several other events throughout the summer.

$BLGO #PFAS #BestPFASSolution

- Tonya Chandler, President of BioLargo Equipment Solutions & Technologies, Inc.

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