Big Crowd at EPA PFAS Community Engagement in North Carolina

On Tuesday, August 14th, the EPA held a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) community engagement in Fayetteville, North Carolina-this was the fourth in EPA’s series of community engagements. The full presentation slide deck can be viewed here. This community engagement began with a session focused around the science of PFAS. Andrew Gillespie, Associate Director for Ecology at US EPA, discussed the widespread use of PFAS and their thousands of different variations that exist in commerce. Gillespie noted that there is a lack of knowledge on the sources of PFAS, but the EPA is developing exposure models and evaluating sampling and site characterization approaches to identify sources and the extent of contamination. Laurence Libelo, Chief, Science Policy Branch Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, discussed EPA’s plan to develop groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS, which are to be released in the fall of this year.

The panel on local issues presented current practices utilities are using to manage PFAS. PFAS management practices were detailed in this panel, specifically granular activated carbon (GAC) and ion exchange. Carel Vandermeyden, Director of Engineering with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, discussed his experience in running a pilot test for his system with both GAC and ion exchange, mentioning that with GAC cost impact on rate payers would result in a 7% rate increase in their total water & sewer bill. Thomas Speth, Associate Director for Science at US EPA, discussed the issue of utilities lacking treatment technology cost data for PFAS. The EPA is working to gather performance cost data to develop models and extrapolating treatment studies to multiple scenarios, which is aimed at solving this problem.

The community panel portion brought several demands from North Carolina citizens to the EPA’s attention. The community speakers called for full disclosure to the public on the extent of PFAS contamination, a ban on any new PFAS manufacturing requests, and a national PFAS health study. The community also demanded that regulatory requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) apply to the byproducts of PFAS. The listening session echoed many of the concerns voiced in the community panel, such as the need for industry accountability and remediation related to PFAS. The EPA and the public both covered and supported the idea of making efforts to list PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances. However, the public was adamant about the development of a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 1 part per trillion for all PFAS (not sure that the analytical methods can go this low) and the treatment of all PFAS as hazardous substances. This community engagement furthered discussion around the need for standards for PFAS and brought attention to its health effects and the resources states are devoting to managing unregulated contaminants.