Expect New Standards for Landfills, Industrial Sites as EPA Tackles PFAS Discharge in Water

February 6, 2023 | Insights

By Daniel Vineyard & Tyler Self

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued the Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 to address the widespread “forever chemicals,” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), found in water, air, fish, and soil around the world.

With Plan 15, EPA aims to reduce discharges of PFAS from industrial sources and landfills through research and the use of technology-based pollution caps. The strategy is twofold:

  1. Analyze the extent and nature of nutrient and PFAS discharges; and
  2. Restrict PFAS discharges from industrial sources through a multifaceted Effluent Limitations Guidelines program.

As outlined in Plan 15, EPA will expand its ongoing study of PFAS discharges from textile manufacturers, launch a new study of publicly owned treatment works influents to characterize the PFAS levels from industrial dischargers to publicly owned treatment works, and begin another new study on concentrated animal feeding operations to decide whether to undertake rulemaking to revise Effluent Limitation Guidelines for concentrated animal feeding operations.

Looking ahead, the goal will be to add PFAS, as well as subsets perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substances list.

What’s Next

As EPA carries out Plan 15, the agency will be issuing regulatory determinations for all contaminants listed in Contaminant Candidate List 5 (CCL 5), which includes 66 chemicals, three chemical groups (PFAS, cyanotoxins, and disinfection byproducts (DBPs)), and 12 microbes. This will certainly result in additional PFAS water discharge standards, especially regarding landfills and industrial zones.

Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) and PRP groups should continue to consider these issues at currently open and active Superfund Sites. Additionally, they should consider the review of closed Sites and or potentially actionable Sites in the future in preparation for Superfund liability and/or litigation.

For more information about Plan 15, see “EPA Announces Plans for Wastewater Regulations and Studies, Including Limits for PFAS, New Study for Nutrients” on EPA’s website. The Jackson Walker environmental team will continue to monitor EPA for future regulatory determinations for PFAS and provide updates.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For questions related to water quality regulation, environmental litigation, and toxic tort, please contact Daniel Vineyard, Tyler Self, or a member of the Environment & Natural Resources practice.

Daniel VineyardMeet Dan

Daniel E. Vineyard is a recognized authority on CERCLA/Superfund, RCRA, and State cleanups. He has been lead counsel in more than 30 CERCLA cost recovery or contribution cases in federal courts around the country, has represented clients at numerous Superfund sites and in each EPA region, and counsels clients on environmental provisions in commercial transactions and property sales or purchases, due diligence, audits, and the handling of hazardous wastes. In addition, Dan is a certified mediator and has successfully mediated numerous matters to resolution.

Tyler SelfMeet Tyler

Tyler A. Self is an associate in the Environment & Natural Resources practice of Jackson Walker’s Houston office. Prior to Jackson Walker, Tyler served as a judicial intern at the Western District of Oklahoma and a legal intern to the Tulsa County District Attorney.