The regulatory landscape on PFAS levels is about to shift dramatically. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced a new rule that proposes a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for two PFAS contaminants, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFNA), hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA, commonly known as GenX Chemicals), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS). This regulation is designed to safeguard public health by ensuring the detection and control of PFAS contamination in the public water systems across the country.
You may not have heard of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), but chances are you’ve come across them in your daily life. PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been around the United States since the 1940s. From Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) for firefighting to stain-resistant fabrics, the non-stick cookware introduced by Dupont in the 1950s to water-repellent clothing, PFAS have found their way into numerous items we use regularly.
However, there’s growing concern about the impact of PFAS on both human health and the environment. Studies have linked them to adverse effects, leading to new federal regulations. As a result, there’s a rising demand for services that investigate, treat, and consult on PFAS-related issues.
One of the challenging aspects of dealing with PFAS is understanding how they behave in the environment. These chemicals can be found in many places, from military bases and wastewater treatment plants to our drinking water and the air we breathe. Some types of PFAS, like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), are known for their persistence and ability to accumulate in living organisms, which raises concerns for both us and nature.
Ongoing research suggests that exposure to PFAS could have adverse health effects such as elevated cholesterol levels, immune system responses, and low birth weight. There’s also a possibility of a suggestive carcinogenic potential.
The resilience of PFAS is attributed to their unique chemical structure, often described as having a “two-part” composition. The “tail” is a strong bond between carbon and fluorine, making it one of the most robust bonds found in nature. The “head” includes a functional group, like a carboxylic or sulfonic acid, which gives PFAS their remarkable properties of being both hydrophobic (repelling water) and hydrophilic (attracting water).
What this means to you
In the very near future, you will be required to analyze your project’s water supply for PFAS contaminant levels and if they are above the regulatory limits, you’ll need to implement a strategy to treat your supply and bring it to acceptable code. UES is a PFAS consultant that is actively collaborating with government regulators, municipal authorities, and corporations to effectively navigate the intricate and ever-changing realm of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) regulations.
Emerging chemicals such as PFAS are an upcoming concern to industry and local governments, and no two situations are the same.That’s why our seasoned and highly trained environmental team of engineers, geologists, scientists, and technicians are available to take you step-by-step through a process that is customized for your situation from start to finish. Our goal is to successfully guide you through the PFAS testing and remediation process that prepares you for the upcoming EPA’s PFAS regulations.
Our PFAS Consulting Process
Sampling, Testing, and Reporting
UES’ team of PFAS experts collects various types of media including solid, aqueous, and air samples for PFAS testing from specific sites.
Because PFAS are analyzed in such small quantities–parts per trillion–even the smallest cross-contamination could contribute to a false positive sample. Our experts are highly trained in sample collection procedures and follow standard best practices for environmental sampling to prevent contamination. We select the proper method for collecting samples based on the type of sample, making sure to follow all regulatory guidelines. After the samples are collected, they are submitted for analysis to a certified laboratory to determine the concentration of PFAS present.
The data is carefully examined by our PFAS experts to see if the samples exceed the regulatory limit for PFAS. The test results are then reported to the Client, and at the Client’s request to the appropriate regulatory agency. Understanding those results is crucial for identifying any potential risks to human health and/or the environment, and figuring out the extent of any necessary remediation activities.
Remediation and Design
If determined necessary, UES evaluates, designs and constructs cleanup systems to address contamination at sites across the country. We are actively involved in emerging remediation efforts. Our team of expert PFAS consulting engineers and geologists employ the latest available techniques for soil and source management, as well as groundwater management. Our primary objective is to effectively limit exposure to PFAS and other types of contamination.
Monitoring and managing PFAS contamination is a vital part of a successful remediation program. We can offer expert guidance on developing and implementing a monitoring plan for sites affected by PFAS. This includes installing monitoring wells to keep a close eye on things.
We can also assist in grant writing to obtain federal funding for sampling, remediation and other PFAS related activities.
Our PFAS Services:
- Feasibility studies for PFAS removal in water, wastewater, and leachate
- Subsurface investigation and sampling of soil, sediments, and groundwater
- Historical research and PFAS source identification
- Plume evaluation and contaminant migration
- Remedial design and treatment of soil, sediments, and groundwater
- Installation of remediation systems
- Environmental site assessment
- Contaminant hydrogeology
- Sampling and Monitoring Assistance
- Treatability Studies
Having a proven history of effectively conducting site investigation and remediation projects across various settings, we have refined our expertise in offering reliable PFAS sampling, investigation, and cleanup methods.
As you may know, as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), the USEPA implements Section 1445(a)(2), Monitoring Program for Unregulated Contaminants. The rule requires once every five years that USEPA issue a list of priority unregulated contaminants to be monitored by certain public water supply systems across the nation.
The list of unregulated contaminants includes 29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and lithium. USEPA has required all public water supply system serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people to monitor and ensure that a nationally representative sampling of systems serving fewer than 3,300 people monitor for the contaminants in UCMR 5.
Samples must be collected between 2023 and 2025, and completion of data reporting in 2026.
The required schedule set by USEPA in the chart below.
Sampling for PFAS substances is more complex than regular sampling since it is very easy to cross contaminate the samples due to improper sampling techniques including wearing the wrong clothes, gloves, etc. UES has direct experience with the complex collection of PFAS sampling, monitoring, and subsequent public awareness scenarios. Dave Poague of our staff has over 20 plus years working with municipalities and other governmental entities with sampling drinking water, waste water, discharges, groundwater monitoring and analytical support.
If you do not have the time, resources, or experience in the proper collection and monitoring of PFAS, let UES partner with you and deliver accurate, reliable, and timely results done in a professional manner.
PFAS are a set of man-made chemicals that have been used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products since the 1940’s due to their resistance to grease, oil, water, and heat. For example, PFAS are used in stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints, and fire-fighting foams. Certain PFAS are also authorized by the FDA for limited use in cookware, food packaging, and food processing equipment. Common everyday items such as pizza boxes, fast food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, baking papers, Teflon® coated cookware, protective clothing, tents, personal care products, adhesives, waxes, and carpets are just a few examples of items that contain PFAS. There has been a reduction in the manufacturing and use of certain types of PFAS. For example, some manufacturers such as 3M, the principal worldwide manufacturer and sole U.S. manufacturer of PFOS are phasing out the production of PFAS. There are a total of eight companies worldwide that produce various types of PFAS. Some companies are replacing PFAS with alternative substitute chemicals with the same performance effectiveness of their predecessors. Unfortunately, it is not evident that these replacement chemicals are safe to use.
PFAS are considered “forever chemicals” because they are environmentally persistent, bioaccumulative, and remain in human bodies for an unknown length of time. Accumulation of certain PFAS has been demonstrated through blood testing of humans and animals around the world. In fact, polar bears in the Artic have been found to have low levels of PFAS in their blood. This widespread exposure is attributed to the ability of these chemicals to bind to blood proteins and long half-lives in humans. PFAS has been shown to cause cancer and other severe health problems and poses serious threat to drinking water supplies across rural, suburban, and urban communities.
UES has formed a committee to develop standard operating procedures, guidelines and marketing to assist entities that may be impacted or need additional guidance. UES staff has experience in sampling and can provide direct support to our current and future clients regarding PFAS issues. There are many business entities that potentially could have used PFAS in their operations including aerospace, manufacturers of textiles, paper products, and insulation, metal platers, semiconductor industry, wire manufacturing, chemical producers and many others. At least 2,500 industrial facilities across the nation could be discharging PFAS into the air and water, according to EPA. The image below (obtained from EWG) shows the locations of facilities documented as using PFAS.
According to EWG there are 446 public water systems known to be contaminated with PFAS and nearly 700 military installations with known or suspected PFAS contamination. These facilities are not shown on the above image. PFAS contamination has also been identified at landfills (disposal of wastes containing PFAS), wastewater treatment plants (conventional sewage treatment methods do not efficiently remove PFAS), and biosolids (domestic sewage applied on agricultural land).