EPA Issues Guidance to States to Reduce Harmful PFAS Pollution

A new EPA memo provides direction under the NPDES permitting program to limit PFAS at their source

WASHINGTON — Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a memorandum to states that provides direction on how to use the nation’s clean bedrock water permitting program to protect against per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The guidance released today, which outlines how states can monitor for PFAS releases and take steps to reduce them where they are found, is part of the Agency’s holistic approach to tackling the chemicals permanently harmful under the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Map.

This action is a critical step in EPA’s efforts to contain PFAS at their source, which will reduce the levels of PFAS entering wastewater and stormwater systems and ultimately reduce exposure people to PFAS through swimming, fishing, drinking and other routes.

“EPA is following through on its commitment to empower states and communities across the country to address known or suspected releases of PFAS,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Today’s action builds on successful and innovative efforts already used by several states to protect communities by using our Clean Water Act permitting program to identify and reduce sources of PFAS pollution before they enter our waters.”

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The memorandum, Addressing PFAS Spills in National Pollutant Elimination System (NPDES) Permits and through the Pretreatment Program and Monitoring Programs, aligns wastewater and stormwater NPDES permits and pretreatment program implementation activities with the goals in the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap. The memo recommends that states use the most current sampling and analysis methods in their NPDES programs to identify known or suspected sources of PFAS and to take action using their pretreatment and permitting authorities, such as setting limits that technology based on the sources of PFAS releases. The memo will also help the Agency obtain comprehensive information by monitoring the sources and quantities of PFAS releases, informing other EPA efforts to address PFAS.

Several states have already demonstrated the benefits of leveraging their state-administered NPDES permit programs to identify and reduce sources of PFAS before these chemicals forever enter treatment facilities and surface waters. Michigan, for example, is partnering with municipal wastewater treatment facilities to develop monitoring methods to help identify upstream sources of PFAS. The state has been able to leverage that monitoring information to work with industries, such as electroplating companies, to significantly reduce PFAS releases. North Carolina has also successfully leveraged its NPDES program to develop facility-specific, technology-based effluent limits for known industrial dischargers of PFAS. This memo encourages states to replicate these methods and use others identified in the memo to identify and reduce PFAS releases.

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This memo builds on the agency’s April 2022 memo to EPA Regions by expanding the audience to states and including new recommendations related to biosolids, permit limits, and coordination across relevant state agencies. The memo provides recommendations to NPDES permit writers and pretreatment coordinators, rooted in the successful use of these tools in several states, on monitoring provisions and analytical methods and the use of pollution prevention practices and best management practices. These provisions will help reduce PFAS pollution in surface waters as the Agency is also working to publish effluent guidelines, complete multi-laboratory validated analytical methods and publish water quality criteria that address PFAS compounds.


PFAS are a large group of chemicals used in consumer products and industrial processes. Used since the 1940s, PFAS are resistant to heat, oils, stains, grease and water – properties that contribute to their persistence in the environment.

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Anyone who discharges wastewater into waters of the United States must obtain an NPDES permit. That license includes provisions to ensure that pollutants are removed from waste water discharged directly into rivers or the environment as necessary to protect our waters and public health. Many industries discharge into Municipal Wastewater Treatment Works (WWTPs), which are not designed to remove PFAS, rather than directly into rivers or creeks. Reducing the amount of PFAS that industries send to Municipal WWTPs is an important part of limiting the amount of PFAS that is released into the environment.

In October 2021, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan published the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Map – setting out an agency-wide approach to addressing PFAS and delivering tangible public health benefits to all those affected by PFAS pollution. Last month, EPA released its first annual progress report under the Roadmap, highlighting successful actions started or completed in the first year of implementation and identifying critical milestones it will achieve in the coming year .


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