Read the full article by E.A. Crunden (Waste Dive)

“Industry experts say landfill operators should anticipate new regulations targeting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the state level in coming years. Those fast-unfolding changes, impacting groundwater and surface water, come alongside emerging research as more becomes known about PFAS in landfill gas.

During a session at this year’s virtual WasteExpo devoted to going ‘beyond the basics’ of PFAS, speakers said following the trajectory of policy is key for industry players facing an increasingly varied national regulatory landscape. 

‘Regulations across the country are changing day to day, moment to moment. [It’s a] race to the bottom as each state adopts standards that seem to be lower and lower,’ said Nikki Delude Roy, vice president for environmental consulting firm GeoInsight, referencing the levels of PFAS states are permitting in water. 

There are over 4,500 types of PFAS, chemicals known for their non-stick properties. Several, including the more well-known PFOS and PFOA, have been repeatedly linked to health effects like cancer and developmental issues by the U.S. EPA. 

Those established impacts have led to a regulatory push. Drinking water has been a primary point of concern, as consumption through water or food is likely the leading source of PFAS in people. EPA has an advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS and PFOA, but the agency has not made that mandatory through a maximum contaminant level (MCL) despite calls from environmental groups and some lawmakers.

States have moved much more quickly, Roy said, resulting in a disjointed series of regulations and proposals across the country. “It’s becoming an incredibly challenging regulatory framework to follow,” she said.

As of September, numerous states have different drinking water regulations in place. New Hampshire, for example, has regulations for four PFAS, including 12 ppt for PFOA and 15 ppt for PFOS. Massachusetts has a proposed limit of 20 ppt for six PFAS combined. Michigan has regulations for seven PFAS, the lowest of which is 6 ppt for PFNA. Several states have also enacted groundwater cleanup standards at the same or similar levels as their drinking water standards. 

​’That lack of a federal MCL has led to this whole situation you see,’ said Stephen Zemba, a project director for environmental firm Sanborn Head and Associates. He said ‘every state [is] having to interpret, if you will, a different set of toxicological data,’ with differing conclusions about safety and public health.

The experts agreed surface water standards are the next likely target, which will impact landfills. Michigan prohibits wastewater utilities from discharging more than 420 ppt of PFOA or 11 ppt of PFOS. Florida has developed surface water screening levels of 150 ppt of PFOA and 4 ppt of PFOS for freshwater and estuarine finfish and shellfish. While PFOA standards tend to be lower for drinking water, PFOS standards have been lower for surface water as that chemical has been shown to accumulate in fish which are then consumed by people…”