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Groundwater and PFAS


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EPA announces plans for new wastewater regulations, including first limits for PFAS

Sep 14, 2021, 13:20 PM by Pat Levak

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15), which identifies opportunities to better protect public health and the environment through regulation of wastewater pollution.

Preliminary Plan 15 announces the EPA would undertake three new rulemakings to reduce contaminants, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and nutrients from key industries.

The EPA would initiate the new rulemakings after concluding several studies that were discussed in Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14. The agency has determined that revised effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and pretreatment standards are warranted for the:

  • Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers category to address PFAS discharges from facilities manufacturing PFAS
  • Metal Finishing category to address PFAS discharges from chromium electroplating facilities
  • Meat and Poultry Products category to address nutrient discharges.

Preliminary Plan 15 also discusses the Steam Electric Power Generating category rulemaking that the agency announced on July 26. The EPA has initiated that rulemaking process to consider strengthening the effluent limits applicable to certain ELG waste streams from coal power plants that use steam to generate electricity.

Click here to view Preliminary Plan 15 and learn how to submit comments.

NGWA has long been an industry leader in providing PFAS research, education, and resources to the public and scientific communities. In 2017, 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 contaminants featuring a FAQs document, a top-10 facts sheet, a homeowner checklist, and more.

wp-pfas-fate-and-transport-2021PFAS Fate and Transport 2021 white paper

NGWA recently published the white paper, PFAS Fate and Transport 2021, that 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:

  • 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-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.

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.