NEW YORK (July 29, 2020) Aggressively addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) continues to be an active and ongoing priority for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today, EPA Region 2 highlighted efforts to help communities in the region address the exposure pathway risks from per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and the agency’s constructive engagement to manage the potential PFAS environmental impacts. EPA Region 2 is taking a proactive approach to address PFAS and is accelerating efforts to expand scientific knowledge about PFAS. In July alone, EPA has made significant progress implementing the PFAS Action Plan —the most comprehensive cross-agency plan ever to address an emerging chemical of concern.
“With federal technical assistance efforts underway across the country, the Trump Administration is bringing much needed support to state, tribal, and local governments as part of the agency’s unprecedented efforts under the PFAS Action Plan,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These partnerships allow for collaboration, encourage cutting edge research, and information sharing—ensuring that our joint efforts are effective and protective of public health.”
“Working in close partnership with states, tribes, and local communities across the country, EPA is focused on PFAS reductions and protecting public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “EPA Region 2 is providing positive and proactive leadership in addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and this area continues to be an active and ongoing priority for EPA.”
EPA Region 2 has generally become involved with communities impacted by PFAS as they are identified or if they are connected with sites under the Superfund program or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action program. Communities have also self-identified and others have been brought to EPA’s attention by the state. In some communities, where drinking water sampling has indicated levels of PFAS in exceedance of EPA’s health advisories, EPA Region 2 has coordinated with local officials, drinking water utilities, state drinking water primacy agencies, and other federal agencies to inform the public.
EPA Region 2 has been directly involved in communities with potential PFAS contamination where that contamination may be found at a Superfund site. Many of those sites are overseen by the Department of Defense (DOD), such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) near Trenton, N.J. and Picatinny Arsenal near Dover, N.J. These sites are on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) and cleanup activities are managed through the Air Force and Army, respectively. PFAS investigations have been ongoing for several years. The Department of Energy (DOE) has also been investigating potential PFAS contamination related to the Brookhaven National Lab Superfund site. At the DOD and the DOE site restoration advisory boards or community advisory councils are in place. These provide a forum for members of the public and local/state and federal regulators to discuss and provide input on these investigations. At the NPL sites, EPA is the lead agency for regulatory oversight and works with its state and local counterparts to ensure that the varying concerns are identified and addressed whenever possible. Challenges exist at these sites where multiple non-federal potential sources of contamination are identified, such as fire training facilities. This can complicate jurisdiction and responsibility for cleanup. In such cases, continuing open communication is key to moving projects forward.
Some of EPA’s involvement is through known potential sources, such as at the Chemours Chambers Works and Solvay Specialty Polymers RCRA corrective action facilities in southern N.J. EPA is the lead in overseeing work being conducted under a RCRA Corrective Action Permit at the Chemours Chambers Works complex located in Deepwater, N.J. Chemours runs a sampling program for private drinking water wells in the vicinity of the facility and when needed, has provided point-of-entry treatment systems or has connected residences to public water supplies. EPA has worked closely with local and state officials and has developed several approaches to assist with public communication. At the request of EPA, Chemours is working on a public web page that will include site-related documents. Chemours is also working on a public participation plan, and has a Community Advisory Panel.
At the Solvay Specialty Polymers facility in West Depford, N.J, NJDEP is the lead for the site’s remediation program, including PFAS-related mitigation and cleanup activities on and off-site. EPA reviews and provides technical assistance on Solvay’s PFAS investigation work plans and reports. NJDEP requested that EPA scientists collaborate with them to identify PFAS compounds that have been used as replacements for legacy PFAS in industrial applications and to characterize the distribution of legacy PFAS in soil samples they collected in southwestern N.J., including areas adjacent to the Solvay Specialty Polymers and Chemours facilities. EPA’s research identified legacy PFAS compounds in soil samples as well as ten PFAS compounds that appear to be replacements for legacy PFAS previously used in industrial processes in the area. The researchers used these analytical findings to develop contour maps of the presence of new PFAS compounds and legacy PFAS compounds, with the highest concentrations closest to potential industrial sources identified by NJDEP.
EPA was approached by members of the rural community of Hoosick Falls, N.Y. about perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in their drinking water above the EPA health advisory level that was then in effect. EPA has been working collaboratively with the community and with the state since the agency became involved. New York State addressed the drinking water issue by requiring a treatment system and investigating facilities and landfills in the area as potential sources. In 2017, EPA also added the Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics (SGPP) McCaffrey Street site to the NPL. New York State is the lead agency for all sites in Hoosick Falls, with the New York State Department of Health leading efforts regarding public water supply issues. In March 2019, at the request of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), EPA’s Office of Research and Development sampled emissions to characterize potential residual PFAS and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) air releases from the SGPP-McCaffrey Street facility. In December 2019, NYSDEC reported EPA’s findings to the Mayor and the community that the emissions are free of PFOA and other long-chain legacy perfluorinated carboxylic acids.
Through its Superfund program, EPA has sampled for PFAS compounds at a number of NPL sites, many at the request of the state. In New York, the state requested that sampling occur at approximately 80 federal NPL sites. For the sites on Long Island, EPA performed the sampling and provided the samples to the state for analysis. In New Jersey, approximately 18 sites have been sampled as part of regular site investigations. The data has been shared with the state.
While EPA is not the federal lead for PFOS contamination at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., EPA has a close partnership with Newburgh and continues to monitor progress at the site. The fire-fighting foam from a fire training area is a potential source for the PFAS contamination that has been found in Washington Lake, a drinking water source for the city of Newburgh. The Air National Guard has been investigating contamination on their property. New York State has the lead on overseeing the cleanup and the work to address the drinking water. On February 11, 2020, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) began an exposure assessment of PFAS in drinking water near the Stewart Air National Guard.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, facilities using PFAS in production of other products, airports, and military installations are some of the contributors of PFAS releases into the air, soil, and water. Due to their widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. There is evidence that continued exposure above specific levels to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects.
As part of EPA’s aggressive efforts to address these risks, the agency issued the PFAS Action Plan in February 2019. The Action Plan is the agency’s first multi-media, multi-program, national research, management, and risk communication plan to address a challenge like PFAS. The plan responds to the extensive public input the agency received during the PFAS National Leadership Summit, multiple community engagements and through the public docket. The PFAS Action Plan outlines the processes and tools EPA is using to assess the PFAS risk and assist states, tribes and communities in addressing their unique situations.
For more information about PFAS, please visit: www.epa.gov/pfas