Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report detailing its findings with respect to PFAS and environmental justice community impacts. The GAO utilized data from six states (Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio and Vermont) that currently have drinking water standards and PFAS data collection regulations that are more stringent than current EPA regulations. The GAO took the data from the six states and examined the impact that PFAS is having on various communities and the drinking water in those communities.
“In Massachusetts, communities with higher percentages of non-White or Hispanic/Latino residents and/or families living in poverty were less likely than other communities to have PFAS in their drinking water. This was the converse situation in New Jersey. According to EPA officials, EPA does not currently have information to determine the extent to which disadvantaged communities are exposed to PFAS in drinking water nationally; however, the agency plans to collect comprehensive, nationwide data. Conducting a nationwide analysis using such data could help EPA understand whether PFAS in drinking water contributes to the cumulative burden of pollution in disadvantaged communities.”
The GAO recommended that the EPA utilize data on a more national scale to look more closely at how PFAS is impacting environmental justice communities, a proposition that the EPA agreed to enthusiastically. This is in line with the EPA’s stated intent for months to examine PFAS impacts on environmental justice communities as soon as its proposed drinking water standards become a final rule.
Without proper due diligence regarding environmental impacts of a project that will be disproportionately felt by marginalized communities, companies will increasingly see challenges in courts that focus on environmental justice issues. Risk mitigation begins with the simple step of recognizing the attention that environmental justice is receiving and incorporating environmental justice considerations into the planning phase.
CMBG3 Law LLC has represented clients in environmental and environmental due diligence matters for years. Our work focuses on assisting companies plan for environmental justice related impacts in order to mitigate future risks. For more information, please contact John Gardella.