What You Need to Know About PFAS: An Overview and Latest Updates

What You Need to Know About PFAS: An Overview and Latest Updates image
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Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that are widely used, with components that break down very slowly over time.

These chemicals are commonly found near military bases, airports, and industrial sites, and travel through air or water to areas far from their origin point. Neither nature nor the human body does a good job of breaking these components down, and to date, very few and costly technologies are available to remove these substances.

Available data indicates that PFAS could pose serious health risks to our communities and the people that inhabit them. These chemicals eventually accumulate in animals, people, and the environment over extended periods of time, creating potential risks to human health and the environment. Cameron-Cole is a leader in evaluating the presence of these substances in our environment and managing the risk PFAS exposure.

What are PFAS?

PFAS were originally created in the 1950s, used to create coatings for products to resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Valued by manufacturers due to their protective properties, PFAS can be found in products such as furniture, adhesives, food packaging, clothing, cosmetics, non-stick cooking surfaces, carpets, and more.

These compounds have escaped into the environment, often finding their way into the air, water, and soil. These unnatural substances do not break down in the environment and have been detected in the human bloodstream. PFAS-contaminated groundwater may be consumed by humans and has been reported in public drinking water systems. PFAS-contaminated soil may leach these substances to groundwater or come in contact with humans. Once PFAS accumulate within a person’s bloodstream, they may result in adverse health effects.

The Latest Federal Landmark Legislation on PFAS

Because of their harmful nature, the federal government has outlined several legislations on PFAS.

PFAS Action Act HR 2467 117 Congress 2021-2022

This act requires the U.S. EPA to designate these substances as “hazardous substances”. It also requires the EPA to promulgate a national safe maximum contaminant level in drinking water for PFAS. Additionally, this Act serves as an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and it requires the chemical manufacturing industry to disclose information and testing on PFAS.

This Act imposes a myriad of regulations and the significance of designating PFAS as hazardous substances can’t be overstated. The Act has passed the House and it has been sent to the Senate for approval but is not yet an official law

On January 10,2022, the EPA submitted its proposed rule to the White House. The EPA has determined that it has sufficient information to designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under Federal law. It is expected that the White House will give the go-ahead to initiate rulemaking by Summer 2022 or before. This designation will have significant implications for a large number of industry sectors and likely result in new reporting obligations and litigation risks

The Current Regulatory State of PFAS

Federal and state governments continue to develop regulations on PFAS. As mandates roll out, it is crucial to stay up to date on these laws and how they can affect your business processes or potentially shut down project sites.

PFOA Stewardship Program and the recent ASTM Standard for Due Diligence in Real Estate Transactions

The PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) Stewardship Program was created by the EPA to eliminate certain PFAS by U.S. manufacturers. In addition, the American Standard for Testing and Materials (ATSM) has recently updated its 1527-21 standard for due diligence on real estate transactions.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Listing as Hazardous Substances

The EPA has also initiated PFAS regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In its initial announcement, the EPA listed four PFAS as “hazardous constituents”. This is a preliminary step in an eventual designation as “hazardous wastes” as well as permitting requirements. How PFAS are currently being addressed Given that PFAS don’t break down in the environment from traditional remedial technologies applicable to other contaminants, there is only one option to address these substances. If detected in groundwater, the groundwater must be extracted from aquifers and filtered before being returned to the aquifer. While research into technologies capable of breaking down PFAS into non-harmful compounds is underway, no technology is currently available. If PFAS are detected in soil, the only available remediation technology available is high-temperature incineration. To date, no remedial technology exists to address PFAS in the air.

PFAS legislation and regulatory response at the State and Federal level is continuously evolving. It is imperative that your organization stays up to date on changing legislation. The complexities of navigating these rules are challenging and it is best to avoid potential project setbacks from failing to prepare for or implement new regulations. Ensure your organization has a qualified group of professionals that are well versed in the world of PFAS to execute the necessary changes to your projects based on current requirements.

Cameron-Cole, an ADEC Innovation, specializes in assisting our clients with complex environmental liabilities. We have performed thousands of due diligence Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) for real estate investors, law firms, and other clients. We provide technical support to clients addressing regulatory response and litigating against the manufacturers of PFAS. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your current and potential future obligations and how to prepare for the response to the latest PFAS regulations.

Blog Author

Jorge Caspary
Jorge Caspary
Jorge has 25 years of experience in technical and management decisions in the areas of environmental assessment and site cleanup. He has also engaged with other states and EPA regional and headquarters regulators to provide strategic direction on contaminated properties.

Operating with significant environmental liabilities and risks presents a constant potential for complications to arise. Don't let these dilemmas hinder your organization. Cameron-Cole's environmental experts are trained to craft solutions that reduce your risks while keeping your projects on track.