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Groundwater and PFAS

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a category of human-made chemicals that have been widely used in a variety of products and industries, such as firefighting foams, protective coatings, and surfactant applications among many other uses and products. This website section provides information on PFAS particularly oriented toward private wells and the water well industry to help you understand the sources and occurrence of PFAS in groundwater. If you are concerned about the possibility of PFAS in your drinking water and are served by a private well, both NGWA and EPA recommend testing your drinking water as well as reaching out to your local health department for information.

As an authority on groundwater in the United States, NGWA is a leader in the science of PFAS affecting this important natural resource. Directed by a standing task group dedicated to advancing the knowledge of this emerging topic, NGWA’s PFAS initiatives include hosting an annual PFAS conference focused on groundwater and publishing multiple products (technical guidance documents, white papers, fact sheets, position papers) related to PFAS, groundwater, and the water well industry

PFAS: Top 10 Facts

Find out important facts on this class of manmade chemicals used in firefighting, stain resistance, water repellants, and other industrial applications since the 1940s in this document created by experts. Download the PDF.

pp-pfas-the-truth-about-private-water-wellsPFAS: The Truth About Water Wells position paper

NGWA published this position paper in 2022 that provides facts about PFAS and how water wells can still provide safe water because effective residential-scale PFAS treatment technologies are commercially available. It is ideal for sharing with local, state, and federal officials. Download the position paper.

PFAS Fate and Transport 2021 white paper

NGWA’s white paper, PFAS Fate and Transport 2021, updates section four of the NGWA guidance document, Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, which was published in 2017.

Since the release of that guidance document, many studies have investigated PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) transformation, partitioning, and transport; for example, the influence of PFAS accumulation at media interfaces, such as the air-water-solid interfaces in the vadose zone.

This white paper picks up where that section of the guidance document left off by providing important updates.

pfas-contractorsPFAS risk communication

As a groundwater professional, you may need to inform a customer of the potential for PFAS contamination in their well water and subsequent actions to mitigate exposure. NGWA recently published “PFAS Risk Communication for Contractors,” a two-page fact sheet to aid groundwater professionals in such communications. The document features common questions that may be asked and talking points that may be of assistance.

The document was crafted by the following volunteers and NGWA staff:

  • William M. Alley, Ph.D., NGWA
  • Melissa Harclerode, Ph.D., ENV, SP, CDM Smith Inc.
  • Shalene Thomas, VP, Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solution
  • Andy Horn, PG, Westwater Hydrology LLC
  • Dave Schulenberg, NGWA.

pfas-well-ownersPFAS and private wells

NGWA recently published “PFAS and Private Well Owners: What You Need to Know,” a two-page fact sheet that groundwater professionals can distribute to customers and others in their community concerned about PFAS. Written in easy-to-understand language by groundwater professionals, it explains what PFAS are, how to test wells for PFAS, treatment options, and more.

The document was crafted by the following volunteers:

  • Jeff Hale, PG, Parsons Corp.
  • Karen Kinsella, Ph.D., GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc.
  • Jim LoCoco, CPG, Mount Sopris Instrument Co. Inc.
  • Richard Mest, Master Water Conditioning Corp.
  • Brandon Newman, ECT2.

d1114NGWA guidance document

NGWA published Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, a guidance document on PFAS in 2017. Created by 36 NGWA volunteers who spent 1100 hours on it over the course of 12 months, it is a comprehensive eight-part piece exploring the potentially hazardous, and widely discussed, compounds in groundwater and soil. NGWA published the document to identify the known science and knowledge related to PFAS; it summarizes the fate, transport, remediation, and treatment of PFAS, as well as current technologies, methods, and field procedures.

Water and soil guidelines and regulations

Click here to be redirected to the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) website for Technical Resources for Addressing Environmental Releases of PFAS. ITRC members maintain a fact sheet that contains PFAS water and soil regulatory and guidance values across state and federal agencies.

PFAS — Educating the Contractor and Customer (video)

Click here to access and watch the video.

NGWA PFAS experts

seth-kelloggSeth Kellogg, PG, a senior geologist at Geosyntec Consultants,​ was elected to the board of the Scientists and Engineers Section of NGWA in 2016, and the national board in 2019. She has more than 25 years of experience in evaluating complex contaminant hydrogeology and groundwater/surface water interactions, including large groundwater and sediment sites in New York and New Jersey. As PFAS have emerged as environmental concerns, Kellogg has been working with NGWA to advance the industry’s understanding and implementation of best practices. She has presented and published on the technical and regulatory challenges of PFAS contamination, including coauthoring NGWA’s Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice (NGWA Press 2017). In May 2018, Kellogg was recommended by members of the NGWA Board of Directors to represent the Association at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Leadership Summit on PFAS. Kellogg’s leadership on PFAS has also included several presentations educating industry professionals on the fragmented PFAS regulatory framework, PFAS characterization challenges, and the complexities of PFAS fate and transport. She also served as a program adviser and facilitator for NGWA’s PFAS in Groundwater Workshop that was held in August 2018.

William M. AlleyWilliam M. Alley, Ph.D., is the NGWA director of science and technology. Previously, he served as chief, Office of Groundwater for the U.S. Geological Survey for almost two decades. Alley has published more 100 scientific publications and coauthored with his wife, Rosemarie, High and Dry: Meeting the Challenges of the World’s Growing Dependence on Groundwater. Among other awards, Alley received the USGS Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communication and the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award. He holds a B.S. in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, an M.S. in hydrogeology from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University.