Comments on the Preliminary Regulatory Determination for Contaminants on the Fourth Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List

June 10, 2020
Lynn Thorp

June 10, 2020

Water Docket

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington DC 20460

Attn: Docket ID No. OW- 2019-0583

Submitted via regulations.gov

Comments on the Preliminary Regulatory Determination for Contaminants on the Fourth Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Preliminary Regulatory Determination for Contaminants on the Fourth Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List. Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund are national organization working in over a dozen states on water pollution and drinking water issues. 

Positive Preliminary Regulatory Determinations – PFOA & PFOS and other PFAS Chemicals

We support the preliminary determination to regulate Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) with a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR).  PFOS and PFOA meet the 3 statutory criteria for making a determination to regulate with a NPDWR. In comments with other environmental and health organizations, (Alaska Community Action on Toxics et al) we have responded to EPA’s questions about regulating other PFAS chemicals including considering different regulatory constructs. We urge EPA to expedite action on other PFAS chemicals as described in those comments. Options EPA can consider include regulating PFA as a class, considering a Treatment Technique option, and moving forward at minimum on a group or groups of PFAS chemicals during this Regulatory Determination.[1]

 “Back to Basics” - Preventing Public Health Risk and Burden on Communities

We recognize that we are urging EPA to undertake an accelerated and aggressive approach to PFAS chemicals. Dramatically enhanced research and other activity will be needed to accomplish this in the context of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standard setting process. We are also keenly aware that we recommend this undertaking against a backdrop of long-delayed action to address PFAS chemicals in other programs, which has contributed to their occurrence at levels of health concern in drinking water sources. Drinking water treatment plants, funded by the customers of the regulated Public Water Systems who run them, are not supposed to be the place where we solve our water pollution challenges. EPA has long recognized that pollution prevention is the most efficient and effective route for addressing health and environmental impacts of many types of pollution. In its 1991 Pollution Prevention Strategy, EPA noted that as the agency entered its third decade, new approaches were needed to address complex and sometimes emerging challenges and that pollution prevention is effective, efficient, and should drive EPA activity throughout its programs.[2] Long-standing EPA policy is not to shift the burden of contamination caused by an upsteam activity onto a downstream user through potential treatment costs.[3] While progress has been made on pollution prevention approaches, we find ourselves once again focusing on SDWA standard setting around  contaminants that can and should be controlled upstream.

Allowing chronic and emerging pollution problems to make it all the way to drinking water sources is a remarkable injustice and a glaring inefficiency. The fact that PFAS chemicals other than PFOA and PFOS remain largely uncontrolled by other programs, including those under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act is a failure that forces the burden of public health risk and cost onto water consumers (all of us) and their communities’ Public Water Systems. Those who rely on private wells are equally burdened, and SDWA regulation does not apply to them. We urge EPA to address this failure. Many of the activities enumerated in the PFAS Action Plan are steps in the right direction, but we must address getting PFAS chemicals out of the environment with more urgency. EPA needs to get back to the basics of pollution prevention and control use and discharge of PFAS chemicals into the environment and thus – in the end – into drinking water sources.

Negative Regulatory Determinations

We support the determination not to regulate 6 contaminants – 1,1 dichloroethane, acetochlor, methyl bromide, metolachlor, nitrobenzene, and RDX. EPA should clarify how these contaminants would re-enter the regulatory process should new and differing data emerge on occurrence in the future. For example, EPA notes increased use of the two chloroacetanilide pesticides – acetochlor and metolachlor (specifically S-Metolachlor) and that it will continue to evaluate finished water data for metolachlor. EPA should clarify what would trigger re-entry of these contaminants into the process.

Phase 3 Contaminants With No Determination

Two contaminants progressed to Phase 3 of the Regulatory Determination process but EPA decided not to make a preliminary determination. We support EPA’s decision to proceed with completing a new risk evaluation document for 1,4-dioxane. EPA notes that two states – New York and California – are taking action and that 38 % of the systems where UCMR 3 averages were above the Health Reference Level (HRL) were in those two states. Action in these two states should not preclude EPA’s continued evaluation of  1,4-dioxane as part of this process. We support the decision not to make a determination on 1,2,3 trichloropropane but urge EPA to find solutions to the analytical method limitations and lack of information on low level occurrence given that the MRL is more than 75 times higher than the HRL.

Ongoing Evaluations

Strontium - We support EPA’s ongoing work to assess new toxicity information and investigate treatment technologies under different water conditions.

Comments on the Regulatory Determination Process

An area for future consideration to enable better public understanding of the process and the analysis involved would be to clarify how a contaminant can move through the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) process and into the Regulatory Determination process and then lack sufficient occurrence data in ambient and finished water and/or adequate health effects information to merit a positive Regulatory Determination.

For more information please contact Lynn Thorp; National Campaigns Director, Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund; 1444 I Street NW; Suite 400; Washington DC 20005; 202-894-0420 ext. 109; lthorp@cleanwater.org


[1] See Comments filed to the docket from Alaska Community Action on Toxics, et al June 10, 2020

[2] US Environmental Protection Agency, Pollution Prevention Strategy, EPA 741/R/92/001

[3] EPA, Methodology for Deriving Ambient Water Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health, 2000 [2000 Human Health Methodology], 4–2

Issues: 
Region/State: