What to do about pollution from “forever chemicals”?

By Lisa Sorg | NC Policy Watch | January 9, 2020

Read the full article by Lisa Sorg (NC Policy Watch)

“State and federal officials are starting to act, but proposed rules and standards take time and vary widely

Toxic PFAS — perfluorinated compounds — are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they persist in the human body and the environment for decades, if not hundreds of years.   

It also takes forever to pass permanent environmental standards regulating them.  

North Carolina plans to enact stronger rules for one type of PFAS, also known as —perfluorinated compounds — toxic chemicals that are widespread not only statewide but throughout the world. But people living in affected areas say the proposal is too weak.  

The NC Department of Environmental Quality is proposing a maximum concentration of 70 parts per trillion, equivalent to 0.07 parts per billion, for PFOS and for PFOA in groundwater. This is the same level as recommended by the EPA…

DEQ has submitted the proposal to the Environmental Management Commission for approval, but even on a fast track, it could take as long as a year for the new regulations to be finalized…

PFOA has an Interim Maximum Allowable Concentration (IMAC), which is temporary, of 2,000 ppt. It has been in effect since 2006, said Bridget Flaherty, DEQ groundwater standards coordinator.   

The proposed new permanent standard of 70 ppt  is stronger than the interim. New toxicological information prompted the change, according to DEQ documents…

Other states that have standards or guidance for PFOA and PFOS in groundwater, stricter than North Carolina:

  • Just this week, Illinois proposed groundwater standard of 14 ppt for PFOS and 20 ppt for PFOA. For a combination of both, the proposed maximum is 20 ppt. These levels are stronger than North Carolina’s proposal.
  • Minnesota established a “health-based value” of 35 ppt for PFOA and 27 ppt for PFOS, also more stringent than North Carolina. 
  • Likewise, Vermont passed an enforceable standard of  0.02 ppb.
  • New Jersey has an interim groundwater standard of 10 ppt for PFOA and PFOS.

One state, Connecticut, has a similar standard to North Carolina. It has set a ‘private well action level’ at 70 ppt for either compound or the sum of both…

New standards could affect North Carolina cleanups

DEQ’s proposal for PFOA and PFOS coincides with several key federal and state developments in their regulation. If the EMC ultimately approves DEQ’s groundwater standards, the decision could affect the degree and cost of cleanup levels at and around the Chemours plant. There, PFOA and PFOS, as well as other similar compounds, persist in the groundwater and surface water.  

A DEQ fiscal analysis for the proposed groundwater standards provided notes that the strengthening standards for PFOA ‘could potentially increase remediation costs’ at sites where it is the primary contaminant. But those costs ‘would be either fully or partially offset by the potential savings’ from a weaker standard, as compared to the Practical Quantitation Limit, for PFOS.  

Last month, Chemours submitted to DEQ a proposed groundwater Corrective Action Plan to reduce the PFAS contamination at and around the 2,177-acre plant near the Bladen-Cumberland county line. The plan is required under a 2019 consent order between Chemours, DEQ and Cape Fear River Watch…

US House weighing PFAS law

Absent meaningful regulation by the EPA the U.S. House could vote this week on H.R. 535, the ‘PFAS Action Act of 2019.’ The comprehensive measure covers the manufacturing, disposal, testing, monitoring and classification of these compounds…”

 

This content provided by the PFAS Project.

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