Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

PFAS Contamination Site Tracker

Click here to view the Northeastern SSEHRI PFAS Contamination Site Tracker

The PFAS research team at Northeastern University’s Social Science Environmental Health Institute (SSEHRI) is currently conducting a multi-year study on PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) as an emerging class of contaminants, while specifically investigating the social discovery surrounding episodes of contamination. As the project progresses and data is collected from contamination sites around the world, a Google document will be updated as new information becomes available and additional sites are discovered.

The PFAS Contamination Site Tracker records qualitative and quantitative data from each site in a chart, specifically examining discovery, contamination levels, government response, litigation, health impacts, media coverage, and community characteristics. All data presented in the chart were extracted from government websites, such as state health departments or the Environmental Protection Agency, and news articles. Full citations are available on the second page of the document. We ask for your additions to be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com

harvard_drinking-water_pfas_military_industrial
Areas with detectable levels of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in the US and their proximity relationship to industrial sites, military fire training sites, airports and wastewater treatment plants. Image by Hu XC et al., Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2016.

Discovery: The chart documents the date of discovery and the source of discovery, giving specifics on where samples were initially taken and the parties responsible for sampling. Activity at a site suspected or reported to be the source of contamination is documented as well in a separate column.

Contamination details: Five columns document specific water sampling sites that yielded positive results. PFAS is a class of chemicals that includes PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), PFNA (perfluorononanoic acid) and PFHxA (perfluorohexanoic acid). PFOA and PFOS each constitute a column, as they are the most commonly found and potent PFASs at contamination sites. Other PFASs are entered if present in an additional column. When possible, a combined measure of all contaminants is recorded. All measurements are presented in nanograms per liter (ng/L).

Government response: The document also records government actions taken or statements given regarding a contamination event, specifically looking at water treatment and alternative water sources provided to residents. This may include installing carbon filtration systems, delivering bottled water to homes, extending a municipal line to affected homes, or purchasing water from unaffected neighboring municipalities. Local, state, federal, and regional government responses are represented in separate columns.

Litigation: Any lawsuits filed on behalf of residents are indicated in the chart. Higher profile cases, such as Hoosick Falls, involve an elevated amount of litigation, while residents from newer or smaller contamination episodes have not filed against responsible parties.

Health impacts: The chart records biomonitoring data collected from residents, while also featuring residents’ comments regarding health impacts of PFAS contamination.

Media coverage: The attention a contamination site receives varies greatly from case to case. The chart logs an evaluation of media coverage for each site, noting any in depth attention from major news organizations.

Community Characteristics: The chart utilizes census data to record several community characteristics: population and race, income per capita, and percentage of people below the poverty line.

Important terminology and abbreviations

PFC: Perfluorinated Chemicals
PFAS: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
PFOA: Perfluorooctanoic Acid
PFOS: Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid
PFBA: Perfluorobutanoic Acid
PFBS: Perfluorobutanesulfonic Acid
PFDA: Perfluorodecanoic Acid
PFHpA: Perfluoroheptanoic Acid
PFHpS: Perfluoroheptanesulfonate
PFHxA: Perfluorohexanoic Acid
PFHxDA: Perfluorohexadecanoic Acid
PFHxS: Perfluorohexane Sulfonate
PFNA: Perfluorononanoic Acid
PFPeA: Perfluoro-n-pentanoic Acid
PFTeA: Perfluorotetradecanoic Acid
AFFF: Aqueous Film Forming Foam (firefighting foam)
TCE: Trichloroethylene
DES: Department of Environmental Services
DEP: Department of Environmental Protection
DEC: Department of Environmental Conservation
DoH: Department of Health
DoD: Department of Defense
EPA: Environmental Protection Agency
EPA PHA: Environmental Protection Agency Public Health Advisory
ATSDR: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
UCMR: Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
Superfund: Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
NYT: New York Times
EWG: Environmental Working Group

Please email pfasproject@gmail.com if you know of a site that is not listed or would like to download the document.

 

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