PFAS Soil and Groundwater Investigation
Use of Fire Suppression Foam Leads to PFAS Soil and Groundwater Investigation
Vermont: In 2008, an unfortunate tractor trailer truck fire occurred at a truck terminal operated by our client, an international freight contractor. Approximately 500 gallons of fire suppression foam was used to extinguish the fire, along with thousands of gallons of water. During the fire, the saddle tanks on the truck ruptured releasing diesel fuel, motor oil and antifreeze to the ground surface. Cleanup activity followed, with an environmental contractor removing impacted asphalt and soils.
Fast-forward 10 years, with new information about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) requested that our client complete an investigation of groundwater to determine if it had been adversely impacted by residual perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), specifically perfluoroocanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
To evaluate the soil and groundwater conditions at the site, Liberty scientists installed three groundwater monitoring wells. Soil sampling was performed concurrently with the well installation. Site investigation activities conformed to strict protocols to prevent cross-contamination of the samples from PFAS-containing materials that are commonly used during environmental investigations as well as in our everyday lives. A favorable outcome was achieved, as the results were below action levels and no further evaluation was required for this site.
What are PFOS and PFOA? Why should you be aware?
Much more information about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) will be available in the future as both the state and federal governments further study the health impacts, establish standards and publish regulatory guidance. Currently many states have launched efforts in data collection, with Pennsylvania announcing a plan to conduct an initial sampling of over 3,000 public water systems last month.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been widely used in commercial and industrial processes since the 1940s. This class of chemicals includes more than 3,000 substances that have been used in a variety of industrial and consumer products including firefighting foam, textiles (stain and water repellant clothing, carpet, upholstery), paper and packaging (microwave popcorn bags), non-stick cookware, personal care products (dental floss, cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo), adhesives, latex paint, metal plating, wire manufacturing, industrial surfactants and many other uses. PFAS chemicals have been found in the blood serum of 97 percent of the general U.S. population. PFAS chemicals have been detected in water in at least 38 states. PFAS are very stable compounds that remain in the environment for a very long time and bioaccumulate. The half-life of some of the common PFAS is estimated to range from 2 to 10 years. Two of the most widely-known PFAS are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Animal studies of PFAS exposure report: developmental effects, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, immune effects, and increased risk of cancer. Only a few of the PFAS have been studied for their human health impacts. Human epidemiology data report associations between PFAS exposure and high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and increased risk of cancer (testicular and kidney). PFAS chemicals are currently unregulated at both the federal and state level. In 2009, EPA issued a provisional Health Advisory Level (HAL) for PFOA and PFOS of 400 ng/L and 200 ng/L, respectively. EPA issued a Final HAL in May of 2016. According to EPA, the final combined lifetime HAL for PFOA and PFOS of 70 ng/L is protective of all consumers, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water. While PFAS chemicals have received much attention in both the scientific and regulatory communities, there remains a lack of knowledge regarding these chemicals, how they impact the human body and what lasting, long-term health effects may be realized as a result of exposure.
PFAS Site Investigation Services and Remedial Planning
Liberty Environmental has an experienced team of scientists and geologists to provide site investigation and remedial planning around these emerging contaminants. To learn more, contact Andrew Fetterman, PG at 800.305.6019.