Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prepares Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plans pursuant to 33 U.S.C. 1251, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The purpose of these plans is to give an overview of the EPA’s Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELG), or national standards for wastewater discharges to surface waters and municipal sewage treatment plants. The plans identify industrial categories, existing or new, which have been chosen for ELG regulation, and set forth the expected scope of that regulation.

On September 8, 2021, the EPA released Preliminary Plan 15, which includes new wastewater rulemaking actions to protect public health, drinking water sources, and the environment from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Plan 15 will revise ELGs and pretreatment standards to limit wastewater discharges for:

  1. PFAS from manufacturing facilities in the “Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers” category; and
  2. PFAS from chromium electroplating facilities in the “Metal Finishing” category.

Plan 15 also includes EPA actions to initiate studies and provide initial results of PFAS studies from other industry categories, and will provide an update on the PFAS Multi-Industry Study. EPA will be accepting public comments on Plan 15 for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.

Overall, this is yet another example of the EPA’s continuing focus and goal in reducing exposure from PFAS. More specifically, Plan 15 reflects the first use by the EPA of existing ELGs to set discharge limits and treatment standards for facilities using PFAS chemicals.