Feb 28, 2020

U.S. EPA Pending PFAS Criminal Investigations

The U.S. EPA has multiple criminal investigations underway concerning PFAS-related pollution

drinking water

The U.S. EPA is involved in multiple per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-related criminal investigations.

The EPA acknowledged this in its criminal report on its 2019 PFAS Action Plan. According to the document, the agency has multiple criminal investigations underway concerning PFAS-related pollution.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told Bloomberg Law that the agency is committed to using all its enforcement authorities to address the contamination.

“We do use all of our enforcement tools, so if it’s warranted for criminals, we would certainly look to do that,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler declined to comment on pending investigations, however, according to the Bloomberg Environment

“Multiple investigations clearly signals EPA is serious about understanding what the manufacturers knew about the chemicals’ toxicity and when they knew it,” said Earth & Water Law Group founder Brent Fewell. “EPA is likely focused on whether the PFAS manufacturers knowingly failed to disclose to EPA the known risks of the chemical. It’s not at all surprising that EPA has signaled a criminal investigation or even multiple investigations into PFAS given the heightened health concerns and public attention.”

3M Co., is the target of at least one PFAS-related criminal investigation, as the company disclosed in a Jan. 28 financial filing that it received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama. The subpoena is connected to 3M’s potential discharges from a manufacturing site in Decatur, Alabama, according to the Bloomberg Environment.

The Chemours Co. has also disclosed potential criminal proceedings related to PFAS. 

The EPA investigates only a couple hundred potential criminal cases per year, and fewer than half are ultimately prosecuted, according to Fewell.

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