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Groundwater and PFAS


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Legislation is introduced in Senate to invest in PFAS health impacts education for physicians

Aug 4, 2020, 07:02 AM by Pat Levak

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) introduced new, bipartisan legislation last month that would promote the creation of educational courses for physicians regarding the health impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The legislation, the Physician Education for PFAS Health Impacts Act, would establish a grant program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund the creation of training and education courses and materials for physicians on the health effects of PFAS and best practices for caring for patients who have been exposed to PFAS.

PFAS have been found in private drinking water wells across the country. PFAS are also found in soil, food sources, packaging, and other sources. It has been reported that more than 600 communities in at least 43 states are dealing with PFAS exposure.

PFAS have been associated with a variety of adverse human health effects, including birth defects, various forms of cancer, and immune system dysfunction.

“As we discover more communities throughout the United States have been exposed to PFAS chemicals, it’s critical that we prioritize research and resources to understand what that means for their health and well-being,” Shaheen says. “This legislation would help empower physicians with the information and resources they need to provide the best care possible to those who’ve been exposed to these dangerous chemicals.”

The Shaheen-Rounds legislation has been endorsed by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Endocrine Society, the Environmental Working Group, the Green Science Policy Institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“We are still learning about the full range of the effects of PFAS chemicals on the human body,” Rounds says. “As we learn more, we will be better able to diagnose PFAS-related illnesses and treat symptoms. The grant program created in our legislation will provide resources so physicians can better understand PFAS chemicals.”

Read the full text of the bill.

PFAS risk communication

pfas-contractorsAs a groundwater professional you may need to inform a customer of the potential for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (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:

  • Bill 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 and private wells

pfas-well-ownersNGWA 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.

NGWA guidance document

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NGWA published Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, a guidance document on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (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.

NGWA PFAS expert

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.