What are the costs and benefits to industry, the public, and the environment associated with NCDEQ’s proposed per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances standards?

Project started: October 25, 2023
Department or Agency: NC Department of Environmental Quality

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Topics
Benefit and Cost AnalysisEmerging CompoundsPer- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Regulatory Impact Assessment Wastewater Treatment

Project Overview

Summary

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and the NC Office of Strategic Partnerships (OSP) hosted a research partnership interest meeting on September 28, 2023, to discuss this project. Click here for the meeting recording and slide deck.

The purpose of this request is to investigate the economic impacts of proposed rules that will regulate certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in treated wastewater. Project components will include identifying affected wastewater discharge facilities; identifying treatment methods and best management practices to remove/reduce PFAS in wastewater; and analyzing the costs and benefits of implementing a proposed PFAS standard and associated outcomes.

The project has multiple related components, which are described briefly below. Potential research partners had the opportunity to discuss these project components and other aspects of the research at the interest meeting noted above.

  1. Quantify the scope of a proposed North Carolina rule.

    1. How many and which types of Division of Water Resources (DWR) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitted facilities will the proposed PFAS standards affect?  
    2. What are the range of water quality impacts from current dischargers on downstream drinking water intakes?  
  2. Review other state PFAS standards for surface water discharge and associated requirements. 
  3. Identify available pollution reduction, best management practices, and technological solutions and the associated costs.

    1. What are the alternatives and best management practices for dischargers to reduce the presence of PFAS in their discharge streams? 
    2. What are the best available treatment methods to remove PFAS based on flow rates, wastewater matrix, and PFAS influent concentrations? 
    3. What treatment methods can owners implement at affected NPDES facilities?  
  4. Quantify the cost of compliance for the affected sources.

    1. Determine the cost of treatment for affected NPDES facilities to remove PFAS, including design, construction, operation, and maintenance based on NCDEQ’s implementation schedule over the permitted flows and a range of PFAS levels based on facility type. 
    2. If significant industrial user (SIU) pretreatment requirements are implemented upstream of Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs), what are the anticipated impacts on pretreatment operators (e.g., reduction in influent PFAS loads)? (The pretreatment operator would implement the requirements and the SIU would carry out the treatment.) 
  5. Quantify the benefits of proposed standards.

    1. What are the anticipated benefits (e.g., human health, environmental, cost savings) of the proposed standards? 
    2. What are the net costs of the proposed standards? 
    3. Under the proposed PFAS standards, what improvements in water quality may be experienced at the intakes of drinking water systems? If there is a reduction in the water quality, what are the associated cost savings to the utility?   

The details of the research questions and project opportunities are not set in stone; discussion and refinement are likely.

Anticipated deliverables

Technical report to the Assistant Secretary at the NC Department of Environmental Quality summarizing the industries that implementation of a PFAS standard would impact, treatment options by industry, and a projected cumulative cost of the implementation across all affected facilities in North Carolina.

Planned use of results

North Carolina state environmental regulators will use project results to inform decision making on the development of PFAS standards, to understand the use and presence of PFAS in industrial and domestic wastewater facilities, and to determine the extent of treatment needed across North Carolina to meet proposed regulatory standards. This information will be used to support continued regulatory decisions and programs after the implementation of standards.

Funding

There is funding for this work. NCDEQ and research partners will work together to determine the specific costs and associated available funding.

Data

OSP, agency partners, and research partners work together to assess what data would advance a project, whether the data is already collected and available, and/or whether and how to collect and share it.

  • NCDEQ will provide permitted facility data information that the research team can use to group the types of facilities/wastewater discharges that PFAS impacts. 
  • Limited PFAS data is available from NCDEQ for POTWs and direct industrial dischargers. NCDEQ will provide all available information. Data from other states for similar facilities can provide additional information to make informed estimates of concentration ranges by facility type.

The project is in progress.

We plan to post results and deliverables when the project is complete. In the meantime, we welcome questions about the project.

Project point of contact

Stephanie Bolyard

Senior Engineer to the Assistant Secretary

NCDEQ

Stephanie.Bolyard@deq.nc.gov

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