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EPA: $2 Billion in Funds to Address Emerging Contaminants, Build on PFAS Strategic Roadmap

The EPA announced Monday the availability of $2 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address emerging contaminants such as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in drinking water across the country. This investment, allocated to states and territories, will be made available to communities as grants through EPA’s Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities (EC-SDC) Grant Program and will “promote access to safe and clean water in small, rural, and disadvantaged communities while supporting local economies.”

“These grants build on EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap and will help protect our smallest and most vulnerable communities from these persistent and dangerous chemicals,” the EPA’s administrator.

Eligibility criteria focuses on communities that are either “disadvantaged” or “small,” and also a percentage of the funds will be allotted to tribes. A Disadvantaged Community is one determined by the state “to be disadvantaged under the affordability criteria established by the state under section 1452(d)(3) of the Safe Drinking Water Act or may become a disadvantaged community as a result of carrying out a project or activity under the grant program.”

A Small Community is one that has a “population of less than 10,000 individuals that the administrator determines does not have the capacity to incur debt sufficient to finance a project or activity under the grant program.” EPA will distribute the national tribal allotment of 2 percent of the appropriations (estimated at $20M) through the grant program as an allocation to regions based upon the Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants Tribal Set Aside Program (DWIG-TSA) allocation formula. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $5 billion over five years to help communities reduce PFAS in drinking water. This initial allotment of $2 billion can be used to prioritize infrastructure and source water treatment, and to conduct water quality testing. Projects that address any contaminant listed in any of EPA’s Contaminant Candidate Lists are also eligible, with particular focus on perchlorate, however, the priority remains PFAS. States and territories will be able to apply for funding through the Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities grant program later this year. Eligible activities include:

  • Efforts to address emerging contaminants in drinking water that would benefit a small or disadvantaged community on a per household basis.
  • Technical assistance to evaluate emerging contaminant problems.
  • Programs to provide household water-quality testing, including testing for unregulated contaminants.
  • Local contractor training. 
  • Activities necessary and appropriate for a state to respond to an emerging contaminant.

EPA also announced the release of the Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant Implementation document. This document provides information on how to use this funding to address local water quality and public health challenges. EPA also encourages states to “think broadly about the type of contaminants that pose public health risks through drinking water” and to coordinate with their hazardous waste management and cleanup programs to identify potential contaminants and sources of contamination.

In addition to this new grant, EPA also plans to propose a PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation in the coming weeks. The draft proposed rule is undergoing interagency review and EPA will issue the proposed rule for public comment when it clears the Office of Management and Budget. The agency anticipates finalizing the rule by the end of 2023. 

EPA’s press release dated February 13, 2023, announcing these updates, can be found here