Read the full article by E.A. Crunden (WasteDive)

“Dive Brief:

  • Testing from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released recently showed per- and polyfluoroalkyl​ substances (PFAS)​ were in 95% of waste samples from throughout the state. This included the Coventry landfill, owned and operated by Casella Waste Systems, where the toxic “forever chemicals” were found in all samples.
  • Despite the evident contamination, the DEC found “that a small fraction of the PFAS entering the landfill in wastes leave it in leachate.” But VTDigger reported high readings for PFAS have been found at two local wastewater treatment plants. One, in Montpelier, took significant levels of leachate from Coventry. The other in Newport no longer accepts the landfill’s leachate, but did during the period measured by DEC. 
  • Kasey Kathan, an analyst with DEC, told Waste Dive some of Vermont’s PFAS monitoring reports have been completed ‘in collaboration with Casella’ and the state is working with the company on the issue.

Dive Insight:

PFAS are extraordinarily prevalent in waste sites and landfill operators in particular are struggling to get a hold on the situation across the country. Despite pressure from health and environmental groups, the U.S. EPA currently offers only an advised limit in drinking water of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) on the two most notorious PFAS – PFOA and PFOS. 

Vermont is among states taking an increasingly aggressive approach to regulating the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and a number of other stark health risks. Under Act 21, passed last year, the state set drinking water standards at 20 ppt for several types of PFAS. Vermont is also in the process of testing all public water systems for the substances, leading to scrutiny of landfills. 

As part of its analysis at Coventry, the DEC report looked at transfer stations in East Montpelier, Williston, ​Hyde Park, Rutland, and Arlington. Furniture, textiles and carpet were among the major PFAS sources. Three closed and capped landfills were also tested. While Vermont maintains the chemicals largely appear to be contained, leachate contamination remains a concern. Wastewater treatment plants do not have the capacity to deal with PFAS, which do not break down and are notoriously hard to destroy. 

‘This has been a topic we’ve been having conversations about for quite awhile,’ said Terri Goldberg, executive director for the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA). 

She told Waste Dive more and more New England states are looking at testing landfill leachate for PFAS. ‘Obviously, states are pretty concerned about any kind of spreading,’ Goldberg said, referring to contamination of water sources via treatment plants. 

Casella did not respond to a request for comment, but the company’s work with DEC reflects wider industry acknowledgement of this evolving issue. A primary concern of landfill operators has been the cost of addressing PFAS contamination should it fall on the waste industry. Some, including a group formed last year in Wisconsin, argue manufacturers should shoulder the burden…”