The top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official tasked with managing water programs said federal funding will soon be available to help municipalities and water utilities implement requirements of a proposed EPA rule requiring water systems to conduct remediation of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Public Law No. 117-58), will provide municipalities and water utilities with funds for projects to remove PFAS from water systems, Bruno Pigott, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for water, told The Driller.

However, Pigott did not say which section of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the authority to allocate funding for removing PFAS from water systems or how much would be allocated annually to fund those projects.

PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals, the components of which break down very slowly and are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world. Studies have found that exposure to some PFAS is harmful. On February 1, 2024, EPA announced it is proposing two rules that target PFAS pollution across the U.S., with one rule modifying the definition of hazardous waste as it applies to cleanups at permitted hazardous waste facilities. This modification would ensure that EPA’s regulations reflect the authority of the EPA and of authorized states to require cleanup of the full range of substances that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) intended, including emerging chemicals of concern, such as PFAS, that may present substantial hazards, at permitted facilities.

The second rule would amend EPA regulations authorized by RCRA to add multiple PFAS compounds as hazardous constituents. According to the EPA, these PFAS would be added to the list of substances identified for consideration in facility assessments and, where necessary, further investigation and cleanup through the corrective action process at hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

As a result of those proposed rules, municipalities, and water utilities have expressed strong concerns that they would be solely responsible for the costs of conducting PFAS cleanup from water systems. Those costs would be passed on to consumers, says the head of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), which is an organization of water sector leaders that advances policies in support of affordable and sustainable drinking water.

John Entsminger, the president of AMWA, told The Driller that the organization’s members “primarily need time and money” because “adapting to the proposed rules could take decades and involve hundreds of millions of dollars per utility.” In addition, if the proposed rules “become the law of the land,” they have “to be funded by someone. Those someones are going to be water-rate payers across the nation,” said Entsminger at the AMWA’s Water Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

The economic impact of the PFAS rule on municipalities and water utilities is going to be determined “jurisdiction by jurisdiction,” said Entsminge, who added the cost of implementing a PFAS remediation project could be reasonable if shared among a large number of water ratepayers, or it could be “enormous” if the number of payers is small. “If you have a $200 million project that you (a water utility) must undertake to comply, and you have 50,000 residents, that cost is enormous. If you have five million residents, that cost is more bearable because it’s spread around,” he said. In addition, because a PFAS project’s costs can vary significantly among jurisdictions supports the need for various solutions to be available. There “can’t be a one size fits all solution,” he said.

According to Entsminger, AMWA’s members are anxious for the federal government to supply the resources needed to comply with the proposed rule. “Simply coming out with a rule and then having water-rate payers nationwide face exorbitant (rate) increases isn’t a good solution to the problem,” he said.