The presence of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in South Carolina’s waterways and household products has become a growing concern. PFAS, often referred to as “forever chemicals”, pose significant dangers to both human health and the environment. The Floyd Law Firm, dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of South Carolina residents, aims to shed light on the risks associated with PFAS contamination and the evolving regulatory framework in our state.
The Perils of PFAS
News reports, such as those from ABC15 WPDE, have brought attention to the increasing presence of PFAS in our local waterways and household products. These man-made chemicals do not break down in the environment, making them persistent pollutants. When ingested, studies have shown that PFAS can have detrimental effects on the immune system and may lead to serious health problems, including cancer. Furthermore, these contaminants are now being discovered in our local marine life, highlighting the far-reaching consequences of PFAS contamination.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) recognizes that PFAS contamination affects various environmental aspects, including wastewater, landfill leachate, surface water, groundwater, and even air quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made significant efforts to address PFAS contamination. The EPA’s risk calculations assume that 20% of exposure comes from drinking water, and individuals drink 2.5 liters of the same water daily for 70 years (lifetime exposure). The remaining 80% of exposure originates from sources other than drinking water, many of which are not regulated, such as household goods, fast-food packaging, clothing, carpets, cosmetics, and more.
Challenges in Mitigation
One of the major challenges posed by PFAS contamination is the lack of cost-effective methods for destroying these chemicals. PFAS in wastewater treatment residues disposed of in landfills can ultimately return to the environment, perpetuating the cycle of contamination.
The EPA has taken significant steps to address the PFAS issue. In June, the EPA updated the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemical list to include nine additional PFAS subject to reporting requirements. Additionally, the agency proposed a rule to establish a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for six types of PFAS. This regulation would set maximum contaminant levels for drinking water supplies, imposing monitoring, reporting, and treatment obligations on water utilities. The EPA is also expected to finalize a rule designating two PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) as “hazardous substances,” granting the agency the authority to mandate remediation actions and cost recovery from responsible parties.
State Laws and Initiatives
In addition to federal regulations, many states have already implemented their own PFAS restrictions. South Carolina’s bill H.B. 3499, for example, mandates the Department of Health and Environmental Control to establish statewide Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOS, PFOA, chromium-6, 1-4 dioxane, and other public water system pollutants based on established MCLs in other states. Several states have enacted bans on PFAS use in various consumer products, from carpeting to food packaging. The movement to phase out PFAS in products to prevent contamination is gaining momentum across the nation.
State Attorney General PFAS Lawsuits
Twenty-seven U.S. State Attorneys General, including South Carolina, are pursuing litigation against PFAS manufacturers for contaminating water supplies and natural resources. These lawsuits seek accountability and financial remedies for PFAS damages.
As the understanding of PFAS risks and regulations evolves, it is essential for individuals and businesses to stay informed and take appropriate action. Companies using PFAS should explore alternatives and understand their legal risks, including potential environmental contamination and personal injury claims. Residents and consumers affected by PFAS exposure should consult medical professionals and, if necessary, legal experts to seek support and care.
PFAS contamination is a pressing concern in South Carolina and across the United States. The Floyd Law Firm is committed to assisting our community in navigating the complexities of PFAS-related issues. We urge everyone to stay informed, take proactive measures, and seek legal guidance when needed to protect their rights and well-being in the face of PFAS contamination. Together, we can work towards a safer and healthier future for South Carolina.