WHAT’S MY PFAS RESPONSIBILITY?

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Thanks to high-profile lawsuits and growing public awareness, many manufacturers  and industry leaders are assessing their liability. Here’s what you need to know.

SOURCES OF PFAS

PFAS are a diverse group of compounds, which are resistant to heat, water, and oil. These properties have made PFAS ideal for use in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products, including certain paper food packaging, firefighting foams, carpeting, apparel, and upholstery.

WHICH COMPOUNDS ARE REGULATED?

PFOA and PFOS get the most attention, but the number of PFAS monitored by the EPA continues to grow. Many more PFAS are also regulated by individual states. The Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) maintains a table of water and soil values by state and country. This table is updated every couple of months as new rules are proposed or passed.

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Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

STATE REGULATIONS FOR PFAS IN WASTEWATER

Wastewater regulators issue wastewater discharge permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. Some states have been authorized to implement their own NPDES permits, but they usually mirror the national NPDES program. The EPA has announced plans to issue new guidance to states, recommending that they implement EPA Test Method 1633 to monitor 40 PFAS in wastewater discharge.

EPA USES THE TOOLS AT HAND

While the EPA has the power to implement new regulations, they also have a number of existing programs they can leverage to control PFAS pollution. The agency’s 2021-2024 Strategic Plan calls for using programs like ELG and NPDES to more closely monitor and control PFAS in wastewater discharge. CERCLA and RCRA authorize the EPA to mandate PFAS remediation and provide the agency with greater control over PFAS management by industry.

EPA TARGETS KEY INDUSTRIES

In addition to using current programs to monitor PFAS discharge across industry, the EPA plans to target several industries for more intensive scrutiny. Industries that are known to contribute to PFAS pollution will be targeted for future rulemaking. Those about which less is known will be the subject of additional study and data reviews.

PFAS PROPOSED FOR SUPERFUND PROGRAM

The EPA has proposed designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the EPA’s Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), informally referred to as Superfund. Once this ruling is finalized, CERCLA grants the EPA authority to investigate or require investigations of sites suspected or known to be contaminated with PFAS, order clean-up and remediation, and for CERCLA actions, to charge the costs to responsible parties. If proper due diligence is not conducted, current property owners may incur some liability, even if they never produced or handled the PFAS.

RCRA EXPANDS POTENTIAL PFAS LIABILITY

The EPA has also proposed designating PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and the GenX Chemicals as hazardous substances under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The EPA further intends to clarify under this new ruling that it has the authority to require the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites under RCRA’s corrective action program.

REQUEST A BRIEFING

The EPA’s 2021-2024 Strategic Plan calls for holding industry accountable for its contribution to PFAS contamination. As you put together your risk mitigation strategy, our PFAS compliance experts would be happy to schedule a personalized briefing for your team on the various state and federal programs that may impact your organization.

HOW DOES PFAS CONTAMINATION HAPPEN?

PFAS can enter the local water supply, ground and surface waters, soil, vegetation, and animal tissue through a variety of industrial sources.

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Air Emissions

EPA researchers have found that point and non-point emissions can be a significant source of PFAS.

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Wastewater

Discharges from industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants can contaminate surface water.

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Landfills

Unlined and lined landfills have separate sources of PFAS concerns from direct contamination to leachate management issues.

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AFFF

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) is great for putting out chemical fires, but it is a major documented source of PFAS contamination.

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Agriculture

More than half of the domestic sewage sludge produced in the U.S. gets applied to agriculture as bio-solids.

PFAS TEST METHODS

Currently the EPA has only finalized test methods for drinking water, however, test methods for non-potable water and solids (soil, biosolids, plant and animal tissues, etc.) are under development.

TARGETING NON-TARGETED PFAS

Every day brings news of new litigation against PFAS chemical producers and those who use PFAS compounds in their operations. Even while they seek to mitigate the damage, industry leaders need to bear in mind that the chemicals commonly named in these lawsuits are less than 0.1 percent of the 4,700+ CAS-registered PFAS compounds.

Although toxicity levels have yet to be determined for the vast majority of PFAS compounds, it is generally recognized that PFAS all share a similar structure and that the health risks associated with one PFAS are expected for other PFAS as well. This means that manufacturers of PFAS compounds, as well as those using PFAS chemicals in their production and operations, could be facing ever-increasing litigation as public awareness of the PFAS problem grows.

Test methods, such as TOP Assay and TOF, can be used to detect a wide range of non-targeted PFAS. Learn more about these methods on our PFAS Test Methods page.

THE PROBLEM OF PFAS PRECURSORS

 PFAS precursors are chemicals that can be converted into PFAS through common processes such as wastewater treatment. Although PFAS precursors are not yet regulated, concerns regarding their contribution to PFAS contamination are growing. TOP Assay is a method that can be used to quantitate PFAS precursors in industrial wastewater discharge.

SPECIAL PROJECTS: AIR & STACK EMISSIONS

Pace® has a long history of sampling stack emissions and ambient air for a wide range of contaminants. We’ve leveraged our expertise to develop reliable methods for sampling and testing air and emissions for PFAS compounds. The most common examples of air emissions testing for PFAS involve incinerator stack emissions from manufacturing and industrial sites. This requires specialized sampling equipment to be placed in the stack by qualified personnel. Samples are then tested using traditional PFAS by LC MS/MS Isotope Dilution methods. Not all labs that offer PFAS test methods are equipped to test stack emissions for contamination.

THE PFAS PROBLEM WON’T GO AWAY

With lawsuits proliferating, estimates for total industry liability run into the billions of dollars. Even if the contamination happened years ago, you could still be held liable as PFAS compounds do not break down naturally. A judge recently settled a lawsuit against a shoe manufacturer for nearly $70 million for PFAS contamination stemming from the 1960s.
 
For more insight on the latest issues related to PFAS, check out our Blog.

REASONS TO CHOOSE PACE®

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EXPERIENCED

Pace® has been an industry leader in persistent organic pollutant testing for over three decades.
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CERTIFIED

We’re certified/accredited by NELAC, ISO, DOD, DOE, and in every state with a PFAS lab certification program.

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RELIABLE

For emergencies, our Rapid Response Team can provide defensible results in as little as 24 hours.

Committed

COMMITTED

We are committed to helping our customers advance their important work through building strong relationships, delivering upon expectations, and providing exceptional customer service.

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ADVANCED

We can test for PFAS in both solid and aqueous matrices, including potable and non-potable waters, soils, and biota.

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INNOVATIVE

We’re on the leading edge of science, working with EPA, DOD, ASTM, and others to develop new methods for analyzing PFAS.

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