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Groundwater and PFAS


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Illinois EPA follows nationwide trend in proposing PFAS standards

Oct 21, 2020, 11:33 AM by Pat Levak

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency released new proposed groundwater quality standards for select per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Illinois’ move to adopt PFAS standards follows a growing trend throughout the United States. Since there isn’t a federal drinking water standard for PFAS, regulation of the substances has largely fallen to the states.

Standards for specific PFAS types can vary wildly between regulating states. For example, Illinois’ proposed standard for perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) is 0.14 mg/L (or 140,000 ng/L), whereas Michigan’s recently enacted standard is set at 0.00042 mg/L (or 420 ng/L).

Apart from the varying state regulations, according to national law firm Troutman Pepper, political pressure for action on PFAS has been increasing in Illinois. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and Representative Cheri Bustos sent a letter to EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede urging air emissions testing for PFAS “at manufacturing facilities and other industrial sources known to emit [PFAS] in Illinois,” including a specific hazardous waste incinerator facility in Sauget, Illinois.

The letter’s focus on PFAS air emissions is particularly noteworthy, Troutman Pepper says, illustrating that PFAS regulation has the potential to expand beyond groundwater quality standards.

NGWA has long been an industry leader in providing PFAS research, education, and resources to the public and scientific communities. In 2018, NGWA published Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice, which was one of the first PFAS guidance documents to be released.

It can be found at NGWA.org/PFAS, which is a complete resource center about the groundwater contaminant featuring an FAQs document, a top-10 facts sheet, a homeowner checklist, and more.

NGWA’s newest document on PFAS, PFAS and Private Well Owners: What You Need to Know, is a fact sheet written in an accessible and easy-to-understand way by members of NGWA’s PFAS Task Force. It focuses on everything private well owners should know about the impacts of PFAS on their wells and can be found on the NGWA website as well.

Earlier this summer, NGWA and eight other water associations commented on the EPA drinking water regulatory determination for PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), as well as other PFAS compounds, while also urging timely and comprehensive action.

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.