‘The real issue is, how quickly are you going to clean this up?’

The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest rule should force polluters to pay the price and clean up sites that have been contaminated with PFAS, often referred to as “forever chemicals.”

The new regulations introduced more stringent guidelines, increasing pressure on polluters to remediate contaminated sites, including military sites.

What’s going on?

According to an article published in Grist, the EPA established the first drinking water regulations regarding PFAS earlier this year. According to the article, 80% of active and decommissioned military bases have excessive levels of PFAS. As a result, more than 700 military facilities and surrounding communities will likely require remediation under the new regulations.

PFAS, which stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are considered highly toxic chemicals that have unfortunately been released into locations across the country by the U.S. military and large corporations. It is estimated that PFAS typically take hundreds or thousands of years to break down in the environment.

Because of their toxicity, PFAS poses a serious health risk to surrounding communities when they are released into the environment. Numerous studies have linked PFAS to heart disease, cancer, liver complications, and developmental problems.

These harmful toxins also threaten the health of the local ecosystem. Over time, PFAS leach chemicals into the soil, disrupting the development of plants and animals living in the contaminated site.

Why is the new EPA regulation important?

PFOA and PFOS are two types of PFAS that the EPA currently lists as “hazardous substances” under federal Superfund law. This new categorization makes it easier for the EPA to require polluters to clean up contaminated sites. The new regulation also limits exposure to PFOA and PFOS to the lowest detectable limit “that the EPA believes is technologically feasible,” according to Grist, recognizing that any amount of exposure to PFAS is potentially hazardous.

By establishing a more stringent categorization, EPA is expediting the remediation process in areas where PFAS substances have contaminated the environment and threaten the health of local communities.

What is being done about PFAS contaminated sites?

Communities affected by PFA contamination have taken action by filing lawsuits against polluters, seeking to hold them financially liable for the health and environmental harm they have caused.

“The crux of the issue is how quickly are you going to clean this up and what actions are you going to take in the meantime to make sure people are not exposed?” Tony Spaniola, co-founder of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, asked in a Grist report on PFAS at military facilities.

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