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by Mark Cramer, PE
Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requires owners/operators of facilities, with 10 or more full-time equivalent employees with covered operations meeting certain North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, to submit a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Form A or Form R for each TRI-listed chemical manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in quantities above reporting thresholds by July 1 each year. Most industrial facilities are aware of these requirements and have been submitting the required forms using the TRI-MEweb online reporting application within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Central Data Exchange (CDX) system and/or have developed inventories documenting that reporting is not required. Industrial facilities report data/information about how they are managing chemical waste, such as recycling, energy recovery, treatment, disposal, environmental releases, waste minimization, and this information is then made available to the public.
A substantial change to the TRI reporting required for calendar year (CY) 2020 that is due July 1, 2021 is the addition of 172 Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) to the TRI list. Additionally, these PFAS chemicals have a significantly lower reporting threshold of 100 pounds per year for each listed PFAS chemical manufactured, processed, or otherwise used, as opposed to the typical reporting thresholds for other TRI chemicals.
PFAS are a group of over 4,000 different man-made chemicals that include PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), GenX (trade name), and others. These chemicals are very persistent and accumulate over time in the environment and in the human body, as they do not readily break down. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. The most studied PFAS chemicals are PFOA and PFOS. Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals.
PFAS have been manufactured and used in a wide variety of industries around the world since the 1940s, including carpet, furniture, water-resistant outdoor gear, firefighting foam, and non-stick cookware. EPA has provided TRI reporting guidance indicating that Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) containing PFAS that are maintained at facilities for use in fire suppression systems (e.g., stored only) would not require TRI reporting; however, once the AFFF foam is used for training purposes (typically performed at airports and military installations) or emergency action, PFAS use may be subject to TRI reporting.
Facilities should be evaluating their operations for use of the 172 listed PFAS now in preparation for TRI reporting due July 1st. This exercise alone presents challenges. The 172 PFAS have chemical names that are not commonly known, and identification by Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) Number will probably be required. All reporters “should” receive supplier notifications from required manufacturers and importers pursuant to 40 CFR §372.45 covering the PFAS content and updated Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each supplied PFAS above the de minimis concentration. However, updating SDSs often lags reporting requirements in practice. Many facilities have outdated SDSs, and historically PFAS have not been specifically identified. Existing SDSs often report PFAS content using generic terms, such as “confidential,” “proprietary mixture,” “fluorosurfactants,” or “fluoroalkyl surfactant.” Once a facility identifies it has PFAS requiring reporting, then the work to identify how they may be discharged and in what quantities remains. Where does it go and how much (air emissions, wastewater, stormwater, landfill, off-spec disposal)? It is likely that these efforts will require estimation techniques for which the facility does not have experience with and there is not much existing data to support. Sampling and analysis may be required.
Facilities reporting PFAS for the first time could expect increased scrutiny as a result. TRI reports are made publicly available by EPA and routinely reviewed by public interest groups.
Facilities should be prepared to address questions that may be received from neighbors, environmental activist groups, and the media, as well as the EPA and state agencies. Facilities may want to consider enlisting a qualified environmental consultant to determine if PFAS TRI reporting is required and assist with these efforts.
The EI Group, Inc. compliance professionals have expertise in deciphering SDSs and communications with suppliers to identify TRI and PFAS chemicals and determine if reporting is required and what to report. We can also design and execute sampling and analysis programs, and compile the information into the required reporting formats. If you have have any questions regarding PFAS or facility concerns, please contact Mark Cramer, PE at (919) 459-5229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.