NACWA Weighs in on New England MS4 Permit and PFAS Regulatory Determination

(June 17, 2020) – NACWA submitted comments last week on EPA Region 1’s proposed permit modifications for small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. NACWA also submitted comments to EPA on its proposed regulatory determination—the first step of potentially regulating PFAS for drinking water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

In comments to Region 1, NACWA supported the permit modifications that were a result of several years of negotiation and mediation efforts. The revisions omit the unlawful “cause and contribute to a water quality exceedance” language and now include an offramp that allows municipalities a more flexible path forward for demonstrating when pollutant reduction is no longer practicable. NACWA views the permit modifications as a positive step forward from the original permits that significantly departed from the statutory boundaries of the Clean Water Act and may have set a negative precedent for stormwater agencies to adhere to overly strict and prescriptive numeric water quality standards and total maximum daily load requirements.

On the PFAS front, EPA made its first move toward the potential regulation of PFOA and PFOS, two of the more prominent and studied chemicals, for public drinking water systems. EPA announced a positive determination in their Fourth Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List which begins the regulatory process for whether to establish a maximum contaminate level (MCL) for public drinking water utilities. NACWA’s comments support EPA’s regulatory efforts under the SDWA to better understand PFAS, the economic costs to treat and remove these chemicals, and help close the known scientific gaps associated with PFAS generally. NACWA highlighted concerns with EPA potentially promulgating PFAS MCLs and the broader implications for the clean water community that may stem from this determination in future regulatory efforts, like water quality standards, under the Clean Water Act.

If members have questions, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.