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New Mexico Environmental Department's handling of the 2021 MSGP certification 

By - Miori
02/21/2022 9:23 PM

Confusion created around PFAS testing requirements for industrial stormwater

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The new 2021 Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) was published by the EPA in June of 2020 to regulate industrial stormwater runoff under the Clean Water Act. New Mexico dealt with it in a peculiar way. The NM Environmental Department certified it on June 22, 2020, and then revoked and reissued it with arbitrary amendments on August 17, 2020.  This led to a lot of confusion as some companies were updating their SWPPP's and had even submitted them (as part of their MSGP application) for EPA review.

The screening level designated for New Mexico under Part 9 of the MSGP is 70 parts per trillion for combined PFOA + PFOS. A screening level is a somewhat ambiguous term, but essentially it is the level at which additional action must be taken by the operator. All operators, unless they receive an exemption, must sample quarterly for PFAS constituents to know if they reach the prescribed screening level. 

While the EPA permit (MSGP) is very detailed on what operators need to do if they reach or exceed the screening level for PFAS, it is not clear on how to practically sample in New Mexico's arid desert. Much of the state's industry operates in remote, arid locations where stormwater is hard to come by and hard to capture with active sampling. There is no guidance from EPA or NMED on how to sample in these environments since there is often nothing to sample, or whether or not there are labs accredited in the state to analyze PFAS samples when it does rain. 

To add, there is confusing guidance on which lab method should be used for analysis. To date, the EPA has issued Draft Method 1633, and the Department of Defense has amended it with QSM v 5.4 Table B-24, but neither is currently referenced in the adopted 2021 MSGP or the amended NMED certification. Rather, the MSGP mentions EPA's drinking water Method 533 and 537.1, and refers users to the Department of Defense QSM v 5.1 Table B-15 (a table which only exists in the updated version because of ongoing projects, but it is not applicable to new projects). Because this information is not current, it adds to confusion about what testing and laboratory analysis needs to be performed.

EPA has already added PFAS to the list of contaminants that public water treatment systems must sample for starting in January 2023, so we will soon have a better understanding of what PFAS chemicals reach population centers on a national scale. It could be advised for NMED to set aside their environmental grandstanding and not add to the chaos as federal regulating agencies work through the proper channels.

As mentioned, EPA has added some PFAS constituents to the upcoming UCMR 5 list (for small and large municipal water treatment facilities). If you'd like to learn more, Pace Analytical developed a great info page on UCMR 5 and how it relates to PFAS. 
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