Attorney General Becerra Blasts EPA for its Failure to Address Dangerous Chemicals in Groundwater

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Leads coalition calling on EPA to take action on PFAS contamination, a growing and dangerous problem

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, filed a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed guidance that fails to ensure clean up of harmful per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in groundwater. EPA’s guidance demonstrates its failure to protect human health and the environment. PFAS are a group of thousands of chemicals, including perfluorooctnoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), widely used on consumer products such as nonstick cookware, water- and wrinkle- resistant clothing, and food packaging, as well as in firefighting foam. The PFAS chemicals do not break down in the environment and as a result, these “forever chemicals” accumulate in human bodies. PFAS has been shown to cause adverse health effects including developmental defects, kidney cancer, liver damage, and impacts on the thyroid and immune system. Groundwater data monitoring has shown PFAS contamination at 641 sites in 43 states. Despite the major health impacts and widespread contamination, the federal government has taken limited action to address this problem. The comment letter responds to a draft guidance by EPA which minimizes the risks of PFAS and proposes inadequately low screening and cleanup levels for the serious PFAS contamination affecting groundwater throughout the United States. The Attorneys General call on the agency to take adequate steps to address the dangers of PFAS, and adopt clean up levels that are protective of public health and the environment.

“Millions of products are tainted with dangerous PFAS chemicals, which end up in the water we drink and the food we eat,” said Attorney General Becerra. “With this inadequate guidance, the EPA is attempting to wash its hands of its responsibility to protect our communities from dangerous chemicals in our water. We demand the EPA address this sleeping giant before it’s too late.”

In the comment letter, the Attorneys General assert that EPA’s proposed guidance fails to take appropriate action against the widespread risk from PFAS. The EPA’s guidance proposes a screening level of 40 parts per trillion and a preliminary remediation goal of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA. In addition to not setting standards for the entire PFAS group, the guidance sets levels that are far less stringent than what is recommended by experts for PFOS and PFOA, based on the current scientific knowledge. The levels are also above state-established standards for PFOS and PFOA, including drinking water notification levels established in California. The failure to impose more stringent levels will undermine the states’ efforts to ensure that groundwater is cleaned up adequately. The guidance is also inadequate to address the problem of PFAS contamination because EPA, despite the widely known public health risks, has not designated any PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under federal statutes that require polluters to clean up PFAS contamination and/or pay for the costs of cleanup incurred by states.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

# # #