Leachate from unlined or poorly lined landfills, commonly found in industry and on construction sites, can contaminate local groundwater and surface water. Since PFAS don’t degrade naturally, contamination may continue for decades after the landfill has been decommissioned.
Municipal landfills are typically well-lined, and leachate may be sent to the local wastewater treatment plant for processing. Unfortunately, traditional wastewater treatment processes do not remove PFAS and can convert PFAS precursors into terminal compounds. Aeration and oxidation in lagoons or tanks at the landfill can also affect total detectable PFAS. Finally, leachate may also be disposed of via evaporation or incineration. These processes can contribute to the air deposition of toxic compounds. Once PFAS are burned or evaporated, tracking their fate and transport becomes much more difficult.
Both industrial and municipal landfills are easily contaminated with PFAS. Here are just a few common sources.
Roofing, carpeting, wiring, solar panels, and more may contain PFAS to make them more durable.
PFAS is often added to paper and paperboard food packaging to make it grease resistant.
PFAS has historically been used to weather-proof clothing or to make it flame-retardant.
PFAS may be used in industrial applications as a lubricant or to increase mechanical durability.
PFAS added to plastics can prevent seepage and block noxious fumes and unpleasant odors.
Cosmetics, non-stick cookware, cleaning products and other waste may contain PFAS.
During construction, e.g. runway expansion at a local airport or military installation, soil contaminated by AFFF may be sent to a local landfill.
The U.S. EPA plans to use available programs to address environmental contamination from leachate and other sources. ELG Plan 15 specifically calls for effluent guidelines to be issued for PFAS in wastewater discharge from landfills. In addition, landfills are covered by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting and the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program.
Various methods can be used to assess PFAS in landfill leachate and solids. Pace® can help you select the right method based on your scenario and the goals of your project.
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