EPA Announces Plans for New Wastewater Regulations, Including First Limits for PFAS, Updated Limits for Nutrients

U.S. EPA Office of Water has announced its plan to initiate a rulemaking to reduce per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”, in wastewater discharges.  Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) are national wastewater discharge standards that are developed by EPA on an industry-by-industry basis.  ELGs are technology-based regulations intended to represent the greatest pollutant reductions that are economically achievable for an industry.  This latest action by EPA reflects an additional step in the agency’s comprehensive action plan to address the growing public health concerns from the continued manufacturing and use of certain PFAS.

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EPA Announces Plans for New Wastewater Regulations, Including First Limits for PFAS, Updated Limits for Nutrients

September 8, 2021

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(press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON  – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15), which identifies opportunities to better protect public health and the environment through regulation of wastewater pollution. Preliminary Plan 15 announces that EPA will undertake three new rulemakings to reduce contaminants including PFAS and nutrients—from key industries.

“To protect drinking water supplies, recreational waters, and aquatic ecosystems, it is essential that we utilize the latest scientific and technological breakthroughs in wastewater treatment,” said Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “This plan illustrates one way that EPA is following science to better protect public health and the environment. Importantly and for the first time, EPA is committing to limit PFAS in wastewater discharges.”

EPA will be initiating three new rulemakings after concluding several studies that were discussed in Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14. The agency has determined that revised effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and pretreatment standards are warranted for:

  • Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers category to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) discharges from facilities manufacturing PFAS.
  • Metal Finishing category to address PFAS discharges from chromium electroplating facilities.
  • Meat and Poultry Products category to address nutrient discharges.

Preliminary Plan 15 also discusses the Steam Electric Power Generating category rulemaking that the agency announced on July 26, 2021. EPA has initiated that rulemaking process to consider strengthening the effluent limits applicable to certain ELG waste streams from coal power plants that use steam to generate electricity.

To view Preliminary Plan 15 and learn how to submit comments, visit: https://www.epa.gov/eg/effluent-guidelines-plan.

Background

EPA prepares Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plans pursuant to CWA section 304(m). Preliminary plans provide a description of the agency’s annual review of ELGs and pretreatment standards, consistent with the CWA. Based on these reviews, EPA develops preliminary plans to identify any new or existing industrial categories selected for ELG or pretreatment standards rulemakings and to provide a schedule for such rulemakings. In addition, preliminary plans present any new or existing categories of industry selected for further review and analysis.

Brent Fewell

Brent Fewell

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