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Chemical Makers Sue Over Rule to Rid Water of ‘Forever Chemicals’

Chemical Makers Sue Over Rule to Rid Water of ‘Forever Chemicals’


Chemical and manufacturing groups sued the federal government late Monday over a landmark drinking-water standard that would require cleanup of so-called forever chemicals linked to cancer and other health risks.

The industry groups said that the government was exceeding its authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act by requiring that municipal water systems all but remove six synthetic chemicals, known by the acronym PFAS, that are present in the tap water of hundreds of millions of Americans.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the new standard, put in place in April, will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious illnesses.

The E.P.A.’s cleanup standard was also expected to prompt a wave of litigation against chemical manufacturers by water utilities nationwide trying to recoup their cleanup costs. Utilities have also challenged the stringent new standard, questioning the underlying science and citing the cost of filtering the toxic chemicals out of drinking water.

In a joint filing late Monday, the American Chemistry Council and National Association of Manufacturers said the E.P.A. rule was “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The petition was filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In a separate petition, the American Water Works Association and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies said the E.P.A. had “significantly underestimated the costs” of the rule. Taxpayers could ultimately foot the bill in the form of increased water rates, they said.

PFAS, a vast class of chemicals also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are widespread in the environment. They are commonly found in people’s blood, and a 2023 government study of private wells and public water systems detected PFAS chemicals in nearly half the tap water in the country.

Exposure to PFAS has been associated with developmental delays in children, decreased fertility in women and increased risk of some cancers, according to the E.P.A.

At a public address ahead of the filing on Monday, Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, defended the Biden administration’s stringent standards. Everyone should be able to turn on the tap and know that the glass of water they fill is safe to drink,” she said.

At the same event, E.P.A. officials said the new standard was based on the best available science and was designed so that it “would be robust enough to withstand litigation.”

The E.P.A. estimates that it would cost water utilities about $1.5 billion annually to comply with the rule, though utilities have said the costs could be twice that amount. States and local governments have successfully sued some manufacturers of PFAS for contaminating drinking water supplies,

President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, passed in 2021, sets aside $9 billion to help communities address PFAS contamination. The E.P.A. said $1 billion of that money would be set aside to help states with initial testing and treatment.



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