EPA Takes Another Step Toward Regulation of PFAS Air Emissions

EPA Takes Another Step Toward Regulation of PFAS Air Emissions

Although not yet enforceable, the release of draft test method OTM-50 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marks another step toward the regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in air emissions, as it will facilitate the gathering of data and refinement of test methods necessary to develop air emissions standards. As part of its release, EPA Assistant Administrator for Research and Development Chris Frey noted that OTM-50 is intended to apply to chemical manufacturers, industrial users of PFAS and PFAS-destruction technologies. Its applicability is likely to broaden into other industries, however, as EPA’s understanding of PFAS in air emissions evolves. EPA also published a related FAQ.

While much of the recent focus on PFAS exposure has centered on water contamination and household products, EPA has increasingly set its sights on air emissions as a target route of exposure requiring regulation. Indeed, one of the central missions laid out in EPA’s 2021 “PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024” is to build the technical foundation necessary to regulate PFAS in air emissions.

In line with this objective, EPA released the draft test method in January to measure 30 volatile, nonpolar fluorinated compounds (VFCs), including certain PFAS, in air emissions released from stationary sources. The draft test method, titled “Other Test Method 50 (OTM-50): Sampling and Analysis of Volatile Fluorinated Compounds from Stationary Sources Using Passivated Stainless-Steel Canisters,” builds on OTM-45, a test method released by EPA in 2021 and used to measure approximately 50 polar (semi-volatile and particulate-bound) PFAS in air emissions.

The EPA summary document accompanying OTM-50 acknowledges the current lack of standardized methods to measure PFAS and VFCs in air emissions. This invites a host of issues, including “inconsistent findings, incomparable measurements, and lack of coordination between policy makers, facilities, and control technology development.” With the release of OTM-50, EPA aims to provide a consistent testing method that it believes reflects current best practices to sample and analyze certain PFAS and VFC targets from stationary sources, including vents and stacks.

EPA had indicated in December that it was aiming to release OTM-50 together with its updated, interim PFAS destruction and disposal guidance. However, the guidance remains under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. OTM-50 may be particularly useful in measuring industrial compounds and products of incomplete combustion/destruction tied to incinerator emissions. Incineration is a method being considered by EPA as part of its interim PFAS destruction and disposal guidance.

EPA’s summary document notes that its release of OTM-50 is not an endorsement or a regulatory approval of the test method and that OTM-50 may ultimately be implemented by EPA, state or local authorities through independent actions. Better detection of air emissions through reliable testing methods, including OTM-50, will only encourage the eventual regulation of air emissions, particularly around incineration and combustion of PFAS.

Duane Morris has an active PFAS Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on your PFAS issues and initiatives. We would be happy to discuss your concerns and objectives and how new rules, regulations and rulings might apply to you.

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If you have any questions about this post, please contact  Lindsay Ann Brown or Louis C. Formisano, the authors, Sharon Caffrey, Brad A. Molotsky, Alice Shanahan,  Seth Cooley, Alyson Walker Lotman, Lori Mills or Kelly Bonner, the attorneys in our PFAS Working Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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