NAWC Says EPA Superfund Designation for PFAS Shifts Liability from Polluters to Water Consumers

April 19, 2024

PHILADELPHIA – The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) designation today of certain PFAS as hazardous under the nation’s Superfund law will push liability from polluters to communities.

“The corporations that produced and used these chemicals and allowed them to invade our lakes, streams and aquifers made billions, even trillions, of dollars of profits as a result,” said Robert F. Powelson, president and CEO of NAWC. “But it is water and wastewater systems that are on the frontlines of cleaning up the contamination, leaving water customers on the hook for paying tens of billions of dollars to remove the chemicals from our water.”

A key component of CERCLA is to establish liability for hazardous waste cleanup by the generator of the waste. Water and wastewater systems neither produce nor use PFAS. The only reason water utilities handle and dispose of PFAS is because they are cleaning up the polluters’ environmental failures.

Powelson continued:

“With the EPA’s action, water utilities that are doing their jobs to protect the health and safety of their customers and the environment are exposed to billions of dollars more in liability because of those cleanup efforts.

“The polluters already are not paying their fair share when it comes to removing their contamination from our water supplies. Without Congressional action, this EPA designation means the corporations that profited from the use and manufacture of PFAS can sue water and wastewater utilities that have been treating for PFAS in order to shift cleanup costs to the communities those utilities serve.

“In other words, communities are already being forced to pay tens of billions of dollars in PFAS treatment costs to clean up the problem.  Now, the polluters that both profited from PFAS and hid its effects from the public for decades can use the law to push off billions of dollars of their own liability on to these same communities.”

NAWC and its member companies continue to call on Congress take action to protect water and wastewater systems that are following all applicable rules and regulations for the handling and disposal of PFAS and their customers by shielding utilities from being sued under CERCLA for these specific toxins. H.R. 7944 was introduced last week by Reps. John Curtis (R-UT) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA) as a companion bill to Senate legislation introduced by Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) last year. The bills provide statutory protection for water utilities in light of the EPA designation under CERCLA.

“We support legislation being considered in the House and Senate that would keep polluters from passing off Superfund liability to innocent families and communities being served by water and wastewater utilities that are safeguarding the public and the environment,” Powelson said.


# # #