PFAS Contamination Cost Recovery

A Comprehensive Guide for Wastewater Utilities

PFAS Contamination and Cost Recovery Guide for Wastewater Utilities

PFAS contamination is causing a ripple effect throughout water and wastewater systems in the US. Compliance with existing and upcoming regulations, on the drinking water side, and the expected designation of PFAS compounds as hazardous substances on the wastewater side, as well as the resulting costs to treat contaminated water and effluents, are becoming major challenges faced by utilities and municipalities. The EPA has been working to tighten regulations on PFAS since 2021, and has officially enforced the proposed drinking water MCLs  as well as designated two of the most widely used PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA, both as of April 2024. Due to its widespread use over the past decades and the fact that PFAS does not biodegrade in the environment, systems that test for this contaminant typically tend to find it in their wastewater.

Many utilities simply won’t be able to cover the costs, and also would rather not pass such a burden onto their ratepayers. And rightly so, considering they are not at fault for the contamination. An increasingly popular solution to this is to hold PFAS manufacturers responsible for the cleanup costs of contaminated wastewater and biosolids, and to do so through litigation. That said, the idea of filing a lawsuit can be overwhelming, particularly for those without previous experience in water and wastewater contamination litigation. If this applies to you, know that you are not alone.

Action can positively affect perception

The public is more aware of the dangers of PFAS than ever. As a result, ratepayers appreciate the practical approach of their utilities taking action to protect public resources as well as ensuring costs are not being passed to them.

Regulatory changes have taken effect

EPA has officially designated PFOA and PFOS as hazardous materials, subjecting those who discharge them to liability under CERCLA. With this recent designation, utilities should begin to prepare now more than ever.

Preparation is more important than ever

Whether or not the regulatory updates will effect utilities, waiting may not be the best course of action. There are factors at play that impose a timeline on the viability of litigation, which you may risk missing if you delay taking action.