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Developing a PFAS Action Plan

When it comes to PFAS, the shifting regulatory landscape adds a layer of complexity to managing liability and compliance, especially for our clients with existing obligations under CERCLA.

Recent state and federal actions foreshadow increasingly more stringent regulations regarding PFAS in soil and groundwater, which are likely to affect much of the regulated community. The rapidly evolving regulatory framework and complex technical issues surrounding PFAS assessment and remediation pose daunting challenges. For many clients a good first step is to develop a PFAS Action Plan to identify key steps and responses to guide the process. Every site has a unique set of conditions that will influence planning; however, the following are key questions to consider at many sites.

Begin with information about the site history, surrounding area, and exposure pathways that could pose a risk. For example:

Do you have reason to believe, or do you have knowledge that PFAS were used or discharged at the site? This includes both recent and historical site operations that may have utilized chemicals containing PFAS, to an emergency response where firefighting foam may have been used.

Are there other possible PFAS sources nearby? PFAS are (and have historically been) utilized in a wide variety of industrial and commercial processes, including production and use of surface coatings, fabric treatments, metal plating operations, and lubricants such as motor oil. A review of nearby industrial facilities and properties may be an important early action to guide next steps. In addition, consider of any nearby facilities have had emergency responses where firefighting foam may have been used.

Are there any receptors? PFAS are generally mobile in the environment and regulated at very low concentrations (parts per trillion range), thus a PFAS Action Plan should consider the potential for discharges that impact surface water and groundwater including drinking water sources or that may migrate offsite.

If you know or suspect PFAS may be present in soil and/or groundwater at your site, consider the following questions:

Are there exposure pathways that present human health or ecological risks? If so, there are tools available to mitigate those risks and their associated liabilities quickly.

Do you have upgradient wells? PFAS have become nearly ubiquitous in our environment today, and in many areas, there is a “PFAS background” detected in precipitation, surface water, and groundwater that may exceed drinking water standards, even far away from known or potential sources.

Should you consider a forensic study? While the diversity and complexity of PFAS compounds and their chemistry pose certain challenges, they also present opportunities to distinguish between different sources and to allocate liabilities.

What are your treatment options? A considerable level of research and development effort is underway, and effective treatment options may be available already, to address PFAS alone or commingled with other contaminants.

Do you have insurance coverage? Review your general liability, pollution, and other insurance policies to determine if coverage may be available. Don’t forget, past insurance policies may still provide coverage for historical discharges.

Woodard & Curran is available to support you with extensive experience in these issues and a deep bench of nationally recognized expertise in site assessment, management, and legal support. Please reach out to a member of our team with any questions or if you wish to talk about your situation and understand your options.

Dan Bryant PhD, PG Director of Practices Environmental Remediation
Lucas Hellerich PhD, PE, LEP Practice Leader Remediation Engineering
Lisa Campe MPH, LSP Practice Leader Health, Risk, and Toxicology

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Dan Bryant Director of Practices Environmental Remediation

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