Long considered an emerging contaminant, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been getting a lot of attention in the news since the EPA released its Health Advisory Level for drinking water in the middle of last year. While some very technical guidance documents have been released lately, Woodard & Curran recently contributed to the National Groundwater Association’s new guidance document —Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice—which provides a straightforward, comprehensive overview of the risks associated with PFAS contamination and how to address them.
In the wake of the increased media attention being paid PFAS, a lot of fear and misperception have been making the rounds, resulting in a need for objective materials that can give people a more accurate representation of the present risks. The NGWA’s publication provides a clear, concise overview of thoroughly vetted information that offers site owners and other interested parties a better understanding of whether they have facilities that they will need to evaluate for health risks and exposure concerns associated with PFAS, as well as potential remediation strategies for technical practitioners.
PFAS are thought to be toxic at very low concentrations, with drinking water health advisories at .07 micrograms per liter, or 70 “parts per trillion” (ppt), an advisory level that’s orders-of-magnitude lower than regulatory levels for most groundwater contaminants. Unfortunately, PFAS are essentially ubiquitous, having been used and potentially released as a result of the manufacturing process for all sorts of common consumer items (think: GORE-TEX®, TeflonTM pans, coatings on fabrics), as well as being associated with firefighting foams, certain industrial processes like plating operations, and the disposal of any of these products or waste streams. Historically, it was used or disposed of practically everywhere, so you’re likely to find background concentrations in most water supplies. But the good news is that the contamination is really only cause for concern when it’s identified in a private or public water drinking water supply at concentrations that exceed the relevant regulatory limit. When PFAS are found in groundwater that’s not being used as a drinking water supply, the health risks go way down because the chances for exposure are so diminished. More detailed information on these risks and how to address them is available in Groundwater and PFAS.
Now that PFAS have officially landed on the regulatory radar, and stakeholders are being asked to look for them, site owners will be well-served by partnering with an informed consultant who can help guide them in addressing any issues related to this class of emerging contaminants. They’ll be able to tell you where you should be looking, what the concentrations are, and whether you need to be concerned about it. This new reference from the NGWA is also a valuable resource, and a great starting point for anyone wondering about best practices in dealing with these emerging contaminants.