PFAS: One of NJDEP emerging contaminants of concern

ESI Hydrogeologist, Dan Hemmerlin, recently completed a PFAS course at Rutgers University.

ESI is your source for expertise in identifying and investigating newly regulated contaminants such as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals that have been identified by the NJDEP as contaminants of emerging concern; chemicals that have been discovered in the environment and have the potential to be an environmental health risk (PFAS are commonly found in cookware and waterproofing coatings, some food packaging materials and firefighting foams).

ESI is prepared to address the issues involved with emerging contaminants. There is no one-size-fits-all for PFAS evaluation and treatment. Compliance with the NJDEP is paramount when it comes not only to commercial/industrial real estate transactions but drinking water at home as well.

In New Jersey, contaminants of emerging concern such as PFAS or any other pollutants and discharged hazardous substances must be addressed during any site investigation under the direction of an LSRP to comply with the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation (N.J.A.C. 7:26E) governed by the NJDEP. LSRPs must consider PFAS during an investigation or remediation if a site is currently or was formerly occupied by a facility that stored, handled, used, or manufactured PFAS by evaluating the water, soil, and air for potential waste discharges. PFAS discharges to the environment range from industrial releases, sewage, and sludge discharges on land, to the use of firefighting foam.

Two of the most studied PFAS are perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). According to the EPA, studies have shown that PFOS and PFOA have been linked to reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. PFAS do not easily break down in the environment and have the potential to bioaccumulate in tissues of the human body. Drinking water is the primary human exposure.

As research into the impacts of PFAS advances, new guidance and regulations are being introduced on a continuing basis at both the state and federal levels. As recently as April 2021, the EPA has established the new “EPA Council on PFAS” to better understand the risks of PFAS and how they are impacting human health and the environment.

PFAS have been discovered in both drinking water and groundwater across the United States. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has estimated that 1,500 drinking water systems serving approximately 110 million Americans may contain PFAS. Although many states and the EPA have developed various limits on the amount of PFAS allowed in drinking and groundwater, the NJDEP has developed drinking water maximum contaminant levels and specific groundwater quality criteria for certain PFAS. In 2018 NJ established a drinking water standard having a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 13 parts per trillion (ppt) and an enforceable PFOA MCL of 14 ppt and 13 ppt for PFOS.

Although alternative options for PFAS treatment are currently being developed, current options for treating PFAS in drinking water include granulated activated carbon (GAC) filtration systems, ion-exchange treatment, as well as the use of high-pressure membranes.  

Although PFAS are widespread and persistent in the environment, one constant with these contaminants is change as regulatory agencies adopt policies and regulations to investigate and remediate PFAS. As government research and development continues to advance along with regulatory oversight, ESI will be at the forefront to address PFAS concerns in both public and private sectors while keeping up with all new regulatory obligations and requirements.

Whether you are a property owner, the prospective buyer of real estate, or are currently under regulatory oversight in NJ or elsewhere, connect with ESI, a leader in environmental consulting for over 45 years, both nationally and globally. ESI prides itself in providing innovative solutions for our clients wherever they are around the globe.

Have any questions, need to request a quote or need to test for PFAS, or have a need for any of our many consulting services? Reach out to ESI today for answers.