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EPA Plans Two RCRA Hazardous Waste Rules for PFAS

Posted on 11/15/2021 by Roseanne Bottone and Roger Marks

US EPA plans to propose two RCRA hazardous waste rules to address the environmental impacts of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and facilitate cleanup of sites contaminated with these so-called forever chemicals.

The two forthcoming rules are EPA’s response to New Mexico’s governor, who petitioned the Agency to regulate PFAS chemicals as hazardous waste under RCRA, individually or as a group. The planned proposals respond to the petition and give us insight about how EPA will treat PFAS chemicals under the RCRA hazardous waste regulations in the future.  

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used in diverse consumer and industrial products. The are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not breakdown in the environment, and they are bio-accumulative in humans.

In October 2021, EPA announced a national strategy to address PFAS contamination under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, CERCLA, and TSCA. 

Rule 1: RCRA Appendix VIII  

EPA will propose adding four PFAS chemicals to the list of constituents in 40 CFR 261, Appendix VIII.

Appendix VIII lists chemicals of concern under RCRA. The Appendix is much broader than the actual hazardous waste lists and should not be used by generators to make hazardous waste determinations.  

The four chemicals EPA plans to propose adding to Appendix VIII are:
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS)
  • GenX
EPA uses Appendix VIII to determine which wastes should be considered for listing as hazardous waste under 40 CFR 261.11. By adding four PFAS chemicals to Appendix VIII, EPA sets the stage to potentially regulate wastes containing PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, or GenX under RCRA in the future.

Treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) use Appendix VIII as well, to analyze hazardous wastes before incineration.

Rule 2: RCRA Corrective Action

Secondly, EPA will propose a rule to clarify the RCRA Corrective Action Program can apply to remediation of “emerging contaminants” such as PFAS chemicals. The RCRA Corrective Action program is authorized to require investigation and cleanup for wastes that meet the statutory definition of hazardous waste in RCRA Section 1004.

Read EPA's full response to the petition to list PFAS as hazardous waste here

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