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02.21.2024 Legal News

EPA to Issue Information Collection Requests to Set PFAS Limitations for Textile Wastewaters

The textile manufacturing sector cannot escape EPA’s rush to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA recently requested comment on an Information Collection Request (ICR) to finish the process. Response to the ICR will be mandatory.

Setting Effluent Limitations and Standards for Textiles

It is clear EPA is targeting industrial wastewater dischargers as the primary source of PFAS in streams and lakes throughout the United States with near-term goals of reducing PFAS loadings on those waterbodies. To that end, “EPA determined PFAS are used by some textile manufacturing facilities to impart water, grease, and stain resistance to finished textiles, including consumer apparel, carpets, and technical textiles.” “Information Collection Request Supporting Statement, United States Environmental Protection Agency: Textile Mills Industry, Part 1” (November 2023) (“Supporting Statement”).

EPA intends to use information from the ICR to evaluate the necessity for more stringent effluent limitation guidelines and standards (ELGs) for wastewaters discharged from the textile manufacturing sector, since current ELGs do not restrict PFAS levels in plant wastewaters. “Through this collection, the EPA will obtain data essential to determine if updated regulations are required to address PFAS in wastewater discharges from textile manufacturing facilities, including facilities regulated under the Textile Mills point source category as specified by the [ELGs] codified in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 410.” Id.

For purposes of the ICR, EPA has cast a broad net and sent the ICR to more than 2,200 facilities. EPA considers textile mills to include plants “[that] receive and prepare fibers; transform fibers into yarn, thread, and webbing; convert yarn and webbing into fabric or related products; and finish textile materials using various chemical and physical applications” regulated by 40 CFR Part 410, as well as those manufacturing products under the organic chemicals, plastics, and synthetic fibers (OCPSF) (40 CFR 414) and plastic molding/forming subcategories (40 CFR Part 463).

Information to be Collected is Broad       

EPA plans a two-part ICR process. The first part is billed as a “census” and from that a more detailed ICR process will follow.         

The Part 1 Census Survey solicits more general information about facilities currently or historically involved in textile operations, regardless of size or production levels. A draft of the Census appended to the Supporting Statement requests the following information:

  • General facility identification, industrial classification, ELG applicability, and wastewater permitting information;
  • Type and size (both production and employees) of each facility;
  • Details on textile mill operations, including the type(s) of products manufactured and types of processes performed;
  • Use of PFAS in textile mill operations, including type and quantity of PFAS used, rationale for use, and whether these operations generate PFAS-containing wastewater; and
  • Wastewater generation, characteristics (including PFAS and other pollutant concentrations and flow rate), and management data.

EPA instructs the recipient of the Census to conduct the questionnaire via a web platform, Qualtrics Survey Software (Qualtrics) and the Census is not limited to current operations.         

Part 2 of the ICR involves Sampling Profiles. “Following receipt of the completed questionnaires, the EPA will request approximately 20 textile manufacturing facilities to collect wastewater samples.” Supporting Statement, Part 2(a). EPA contends the wastewater sampling program will “generate information and data critical to characterizing wastewaters generated and discharged by textile manufacturing facilities and assess capability of existing wastewater treatment units to reduce or eliminate PFAS.” Id. The Supporting Statement suggests targeted facilities for Sampling Profiles include “a mix of facility types, sizes, and current practices/technologies such that the data generated reflect wastewater from all types of textile manufacturing operations.” Obviously, this data will be used to characterize wastewater discharges from the industry, including PFAS discharges and facility treatment system capabilities.

EPA estimates the burden to compile this information will not be significant. It is estimated plants will spend about 28 hours and $917.00 completing the e-filing.

Comment Period

EPA published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the agency’s intent to submit a request for a new ICR and to collect comments on the draft initial questionnaire and the draft list of textile manufacturing facilities in the United States. Supporting Statement, Part 8(a). Confidential business information requirements are applicable to this process. 40 CFR 2.203.

Conclusion and Recommended Action      

The ICR will come at a cost to covered textile operations. We recommend the textile industry monitor and review the Federal Register for further developments. Companies may wish to work together to limit the Part 1 Census to those textiles most likely to have used PFAS and restrict the scope of Part 2 Sampling Profiles to PFAS parameters.

88 Fed. Reg. 83125 (November 28, 2023)