Funding to support PFAS research in agricultural communities

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA awards nearly $5M for new research on managing PFAS in agricultural and rural communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced $4.8 million in research funding to three institutions to better understand the potential impacts of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on water quality and availability in rural communities and agricultural operations across the United States. These grant awards build on the agency’s efforts to implement the PFAS Action Plan—the most comprehensive cross-agency plan ever to address an emerging chemical of concern.

“EPA supports cutting-edge research to help agricultural and rural economies better address the potential impact of PFAS on ranches, farms and rural communities,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This research helps our colleagues at the federal, state, and local level better understand the exposure risks of PFAS to private drinking water wells. This, in turn, will improve future disposal methods and treatment systems for the chemical.”

The grant recipient teams will look at major sources of PFAS contamination, fate, and transport in rural areas including exposure risks from private drinking water wells and improved wastewater treatment methods to remove PFAS from water and biosolids that may be used for agricultural purposes.

The following institutions received awards:

  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., to develop a scalable platform for predicting PFAS occurrence in private wells to improve understanding of exposure risks to rural communities relying on private wells for their drinking water.
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., to investigate the occurrence of PFAS and their concentrations in private drinking wells and water resource recovery facilities in rural communities as well as the relative contribution of PFAS from land-application wastewater and biosolids to rural water supplies.
  • University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., to develop improved, cost-effective treatment systems with advanced technologies for the removal of PFAS from water, wastewater and biosolids to ensure safe water for drinking and agricultural applications in rural areas.

Learn more about the awarded projects: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/658/records_per_page/ALL

Background

EPA continues to make progress under its PFAS Action Plan to protect the environment and human health. To date, EPA has:

Highlighted Action: Drinking Water

  • In December 2019, EPA published a new validated method to accurately test for 11 additional PFAS in drinking water.
  • EPA’s new validated Method 533 focuses on “short chain” PFAS, those PFAS with carbon chain lengths of four to 12. Method 533 complements EPA Method 537.1 and the agency can now measure 29 chemicals.
  • In February 2020, EPA proposed to regulate perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water. The comment period on these preliminary determinations closed on June 10, 2020 and the agency received over 11,000 comments. The agency will review and consider comments received on this action then take the next appropriate steps.
  • EPA also asked for information and data on other PFAS substances, as well as seeking comment on potential monitoring requirements and regulatory approaches EPA is considering for PFAS chemicals.

Highlighted Action: Cleanup

  • In December 2019, EPA issued  Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which provides cleanup guidance for federal cleanup programs that will be helpful to states and tribes.
  • In July 2020, EPA submitted the Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of PFAS and Materials Containing PFAS. The guidance would provide information on technologies that may be feasible and appropriate for the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. It would also identify ongoing research and development activities related to destruction and disposal technologies, which may inform future guidance.
  • EPA is working on the proposed rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA. In the absence of the rule, EPA has used its existing authorities to compel cleanups.

 





 

Highlighted Action: Monitoring

  • In July 2020, EPA transmitted the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5 (UCMR 5) proposal to OMB for interagency review. Consistent with EPA’s commitment in the PFAS Action Plan and the requirements of the FY 2020 NDAA, EPA anticipates proposing nationwide drinking water monitoring for PFAS under UCMR 5 utilizing new methods that can detect PFAS that could not be detected before as the new methods detect more PFAS chemicals at lower concentrations than previously possible.

Highlighted Action: Toxics

  • In September 2019, EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
  • In May 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that added a list of 172 PFAS chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory reporting as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
  • In July 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that can stop products containing PFAS from entering or reentering the marketplace without EPA’s explicit permission.

 





 

Highlighted Action: Surface Water Protection

  • EPA is exploring data availability and research to support the development of Clean Water Act human health and aquatic life criteria for certain PFAS, as data allows.
  • EPA is examining available information about PFAS released into surface waters by industrial sources to determine if additional study is needed for potential regulation.

Highlighted Action: Biosolids

  • EPA is in the early scoping stages of risk assessments for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids to understand any potential health impacts.

Highlighted Action: Scientific Leadership

  • In August 2020, EPA awarded $4.8 million in funding for new research on managing PFAS in agriculture.
  • EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions.
  • EPA continues to develop new methods to test for additional PFAS in drinking water.
  • The agency is also validating analytical methods for surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soils, sediments and biosolids; developing new methods to test for PFAS in air and emissions; and improving laboratory methods to discover unknown PFAS.
  • EPA is developing exposure models to understand how PFAS moves through the environment to impact people and ecosystems.
  • EPA is working to develop tools to assist officials with the cleanup of contaminated sites.
  • In May 2020, EPA announced that it is expanding its research efforts and capabilities by launching its PFAS Innovative Treatment Team (PITT).
  • In July 2020, EPA added new treatment methods for removing PFAS in drinking water.

 





 

Highlighted Action: Technical Assistance

  • Just as important as the progress on PFAS at the federal level, is EPA efforts to form partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities across the country.
  • EPA has provided assistance to more than 30 states to help address PFAS, and the agency is continuing to build on this support.
  • These joint projects allow EPA to take the knowledge of its world class scientists and apply it in a collaborative fashion where it counts most.

Highlighted Action: Enforcement

  • EPA uses enforcement tools, when appropriate, to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assists states in enforcement activities.
  • EPA has already taken actions to address PFAS, including issuing Safe Drinking Water Act orders and providing support to states. See examples in the PFAS Action Plan.
  • In May 2020, EPA and Swix Sport USA finalized an agreement resolving Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) violations associated with the importation of noncompliant ski wax products containing PFAS.

Highlighted Action: Risk Communications

  • EPA is working collaboratively to develop a risk communication toolbox that includes multi-media materials and messaging for federal, state, tribal, and local partners to use with the public.

Learn more about EPA’s PFAS Action Plan: https://www.epa.gov/pfas

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