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August 21, 2023

EPA Releases Initial Nationwide Monitoring Data on 29 PFAS and Lithium

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 17, 2023, the release of the first set of data collected under the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). According to EPA, in the latest action to deliver on EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, UCMR 5 will provide new data that will improve its understanding of the frequency that 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and lithium are found in U.S. drinking water systems, and at what levels. EPA states that the monitoring data on PFAS and lithium will help it make determinations about future actions to protect public health under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
EPA states that the data collected under UCMR 5 will ensure science-based decision-making and help it better understand national-level exposure to these 29 PFAS and lithium, and whether they disproportionately impact communities with environmental justice concerns. EPA notes that this initial data release represents approximately seven percent of the total results that EPA expects to receive over the next three years. EPA will update the results quarterly and share them with the public in its National Contaminant Occurrence Database (NCOD) until completion of data reporting in 2026. According to EPA, it continues to conduct research and monitor advances in techniques that may improve its ability to measure these and other contaminants at even lower levels.
EPA states that it is acting to protect peoples’ health from PFAS in drinking water. As reported in our March 16, 2023, memorandum, in March 2023, EPA proposed standards to limit certain PFAS in drinking water. The proposal, if issued in final, would allow public water systems to use results from UCMR 5 to meet the rule’s initial monitoring requirements and to inform communities of actions that may need to be taken. EPA notes that in the interim period before the PFAS drinking water standard is final, it has established health advisories for four PFAS included in the UCMR 5. EPA continues to advance the science on the potential health effects of a wide range of PFAS, including many of those monitored for under this program.
EPA notes that it is moving forward to expand the investigation and cleanup of PFAS contaminated sites, including by issuing final new safeguards under Superfund to hold polluters accountable for contamination from two widely used PFAS chemicals. More information on EPA’s proposal to designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) is available in our August 29, 2022, memorandum. EPA also recently issued its third order under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to require PFAS manufacturers to conduct testing under EPA’s National Testing Strategy. More information on the test order will be available in a forthcoming memorandum.