No uniform federal regulation for PFAS

Guam Waterworks Authority General Manager Miguel Bordallo said GWA would not need to do anything more than what they are already doing, with or without a universal MCL.

With GovGuam now in pursuit of compensation via a multi-district litigation against manufacturers of PFAS-laced products, a revelation was made by stakeholders during Thursday’s informational briefing at the Legislature that there’s no uniform federal regulation monitoring the maximum contaminant levels of PFAS in our waters. A lag in policy that plagues many, nationwide.

Shayna Casper, the director of the State Toxic Action Center in Vermont and New Hampshire, a non-profit group that organizes with communities on the frontlines of local and environmental health threats, said there is no federal drinking water standard for PFAS and without standards, there is no requirement for communities to test for PFAS or to clean them up.

“The more we learn about this family of chemicals, the more toxic we learn that it has, even in extremely small amounts, really significant health impacts,” Casper said.

This is a concern for Guam Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero and his Chief Engineer and Water Division Director Brian Bearden, who says that because Guam lacks the technical expertise to establish a maximum contaminant level or MCL, Guam EPA is forced to rely on the USEPA, which has yet to establish a uniformed MCL. This makes it difficult of Guam EPA to address the issue.

“At the end of 2020, USEPA must move forward with its regulatory determination which is basically a go or no go decision by the administrator of the United States EPA on whether to regulate PFOS and PFAS components. So it could be as many as four to six years before we see an actual MCL from the USEPA,” he said.

In the absence of a uniform regulation for PFAS, its use is still apparent at the Guam International Airport, according to ARFF Assistant Chief Ray Santos.

Although in much lower PFAS levels than what was initially used in 1995, it appears that in order for the foam used to be considered film-forming, it has to have the PFAS component.

ARFF Acting Chief Santos said the airport is now faced with the dilemma of maintaining FAA fire-fighting foam annual testing requirements while also keeping the harmful chemical from entering the environment.

Despite the lack of an MCL, it appears that Guam’s waters distributed through the system are PFAS-free, according to Guam Waterworks Authority’s General Manager Miguel Bordallo, hence his statement that GWA would not need to do anything more than what they are already doing, with or without a universal MCL.

Meanwhile, what initiated the PFAS conversation — the pursuit of the multi-district litigation — is one step closer, according to Attorney General Leevin Camacho who announced that his office has selected six subject matter expert law firms to aid GovGuam in its pursuit of compensation for those affected by the harmful PFAS chemical.