Texas Farmers Sue EPA for Alleged Inaction on Forever Chemicals – Bloomberg Law

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A group of five Texas farmers and ranchers sued the EPA on Thursday for its alleged failure to properly regulate PFAS in fertilizer.

The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, says the Environmental Protection Agency’s inaction allowed per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances from sewage sludge fertilizers to contaminate farmlands, livestock, crops, and water supplies.

PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t fully degrade in the environment and build up in the human body, where they have been linked to developmental and reproductive harm, cancers and more. Studies cited by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have found the chemicals are likely to be in the bloodstream of nearly every American.

“EPA is avoiding its longstanding legal responsibility to protect our health and environment from PFAS in biosolids,” Kyla Bennett, science policy director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that EPA has allowed these toxic chemicals to threaten our nation’s food and water supply.”

A spokesperson for the EPA said the agency wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.

The EPA is currently conducting a risk assessment for two types of PFAS in biosolids that is expected to be published by the end of the year. In addition, the agency is conducting a national sewage sludge survey to examine PFAS in wastewater and biosolids across the country.

The suit was brought under the citizen enforcement provision of the Clean Water Act and alleges the EPA failed to identify at least 18 types of PFAS “that scientific evidence shows are present in sewage sludge in concentrations which may adversely affect public health or the environment.”

Sewage sludge is commonly used in fertilizer for farms, gardens, and other land. While sewage is treated before it’s turned into fertilizer, PFAS aren’t removed and the EPA doesn’t regulate how much of the chemicals fertilizers can contain, according to the suit. It asks the court to rule that the EPA must identify and regulate a host of PFAS chemicals “by the earliest practicable dates.”

PEER previously filed a notice of intent to sue in February.

The case is Farmer v. EPA, D.D.C., No. 1:24-cv-01654, complaint filed 6/6/24.

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