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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation.

The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) shares the goal of eliminating PFAS from America’s drinking water and environment. Our membership of over 30,000 small and rural water systems are committed to protecting public health and providing the essential services necessary for economic vitality in rural America. On behalf of our membership, NRWA made substantial comments to the EPA about the proposed ruling before they released the final regulation. 

NRWA applauds EPA for providing utilities with time and flexibility to comply with the new PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, but we recognize that the requirements will have disproportionate impacts on small, disadvantaged, and rural communities that lack the financial and managerial capacity to make upgrades. Federal funding dedicated to rural communities must serve as a lifeline, providing essential support for the development, improvement, and maintenance of vital infrastructure. In addition, trusted third-party technical assistance providers, such as NRWA, should be deployed to ensure rural communities in every state receive equitable access to available funding and technical assistance.

PFAS testing and treatment will place significant financial burdens on our nation’s communities. While the exact costs are not known, this burden cannot be overlooked, and equitable solutions must be identified. In today’s announcement, EPA noted that an additional $1 billion would be made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, bringing the total to $9 billion to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants. While these funds are welcomed by water utilities, it is certain that significant additional funding will be required to help all water systems make necessary upgrades due to this new rule. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates the cost of the rule will be more than three times higher than the agency’s calculations.

In true Rural Water fashion, our leadership took a proactive approach to address the impacts of PFAS by pursuing litigation against manufacturers of PFAS. In 2018, NRWA partnered with Napoli Shkolnik PLLC to create the PFAS Cost Recovery Program in an effort to ensure our members would have the funding resources necessary to address these forever chemicals. We are proud that the “polluter pays” principle is being upheld and highlighted by the recent settlements in the Multi-District Litigation where major companies, including 3M and Dupont, have announced historic settlement amounts for water systems totaling over $13 billion. This funding will play a major role in helping systems comply with this new regulation.

There will be other costs associated with PFAS that our members will face, potentially including Superfund liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Rural Water strongly supports the "Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act" legislation, introduced by Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, which aligns with the goal of eliminating PFAS from the public's drinking water while preserving the essential "polluter pays" principle.

NRWA stands ready to expand our strategic partnership with EPA to help small and disadvantaged communities meet the requirements of this new rule and continue to provide safe and affordable water services for their customers.

NRWA and its State Rural Water Associations have been and will continue to represent the needs and concerns of small and rural utilities as we navigate the challenges created by PFAS. NRWA acknowledges that water professionals are the backbone of small and rural communities, providing safe drinking water and clean wastewater treatment while supporting economic growth and protecting public health. To learn more or to request assistance, please contact youState Rural Water Association.

 

 

 

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