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U.S. EPA Designates PFOA and PFOS as Hazardous Substances under CERCLA

On May 8, 2024, EPA published the final rule to designate PFOA and PFOS including their salts and structural isomers as CERCLA hazardous substances under the Federal Register. The rule shall take effect on July 8, 2024. 

On April 17, 2024, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a rule to designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), including their salts and structural isomers, as hazardous substances under section 102(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The list of hazardous substances specified is amended to include PFOA, PFOS and their salts and structural isomers.  


PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS, are a nationwide concern due to their association with significant adverse health effects on humans, their widespread usage, and their persistence and mobility in the environment once released.

This designation is justified based solely on the EPA’s determination that the release of PFOA and PFOS into the environment may pose substantial risks to public health, welfare, or the environment. It aligns with CERCLA’s primary goals of remediating contaminated sites and ensuring that the responsible parties bear the financial burden of cleanup efforts, adhering to the principle of “Polluter Pays.” This designation enables the EPA to enforce the responsibility of those accountable for significant contamination to cover the costs associated with its remediation.

Reporting requirements

According to the CERCLA sections 103 and 111(g), and accompanying regulations, and section 304 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), any person in charge of a vessel or facility is required, as soon as they have knowledge of any release (other than a federally permitted release) of any PFOA, PFOS, their salts or structural isomers from such vessel or facility in quantities equal to or greater than the reportable quantity (RQ) of one pound or more within a 24-hour period, to immediately notify the National Response Center (NRC) of such a release.

There are seven broad categories of entities that may potentially be affected by this rule include, but not limited to:

  • PFOA and/or PFOS manufacturers (including importers and importers of articles that contain these substances);
  • PFOA and/or PFOS processors;  
  • Manufacturers of products containing PFOA and/or PFOS;
  • Downstream users of PFOA and PFOS;
  • Downstream users of PFOA and/or PFOS products;
  • Waste management facilities;
  • Wastewater treatment facilities.

In addition, facilities also need to submit a follow-up written report to their State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) (or Tribal Emergency Response Commission (TERC)) and the local emergency planning committee (LEPC) (or Tribal emergency planning committee (TEPC)), as soon as practicable after the release.