PFAS UPDATE – EPA’s Action Plan and PFAS Plans for Other States

Synergy Environmental, Inc.
David Robinson, Chris Horan, Brian Loughnane, Brink Young

March 21, 2019

In February, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new action plan to address a group of emerging contaminants know as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

This Action Plan describes  the EPA’s approach to identifying and understanding PFAS; understanding current PFAS contamination, preventing future contamination and communicating with the public about PFAS.

At the May 2018 National Leadership Summit, the EPA announced four PFAS management actions. They were:

  • Initiating steps to evaluate the need for a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS);
  • Beginning the necessary steps to propose designating PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances” through one of the available federal statutory mechanisms1 ;
  • Developing groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS at contaminated sites;
  • Developing toxicity values or oral reference doses (RfDs)2 for GenX chemicals3 and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS).

In addition to these actions, the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan identifies more short-term and long-term actions that are currently being implemented to understand and address PFAS.

Short-term actions include:

  • Developing new analytical methods and tools for understanding and managing PFAS risk;
  • Promulgating Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) that require EPA notification before chemicals are used in new ways that may create human health and ecological concerns; and
  • Using enforcement actions to help manage PFAS risk, where appropriate.

About Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used in a variety of industrial and commercial processes including metal plating, electronics, aerospace and textiles. One of the most significant and ubiquitous uses of PFAS are in fluorinated Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF), which have fire suppression and vapor/mist suppression uses.  AFFF have been used to extinguish petroleum based fires.  Therefore, they have been used and stored at fire training facilities, petroleum storage facilities, refineries, airports, spill and crash sites, etc.

PFAS contain strong Carbon-Fluorine bonds make them extremely recalcitrant to degradation through natural (e.g., biodegradation) and/or chemical (e.g., chemical oxidation) process. Due to their surfactant nature, PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment, soluble and mobile (Buck, et. al. 2011).   There is mounting evidence that PFAS cause long-term adverse human health affects (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry [ATSDR]

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Regulations

On November 25, 2015, the New Jersey of Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) established a specific Groundwater Quality Standard (GWQS) for perfluoronanoic acid (PFNA) of 10 ng/L. On September 4, 2018, NJDEP amended the GWQS and adapted a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 13 ng/L for PFNA.

On March 13, 2019, NJDEP, issued Interim Specific Groundwater Quality Standards (ISGWQS) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) of 0.01 μg/L (10 parts per trillion [ppt]). The NJDEP also requires that all sites currently undergoing remediation (except for this sites that received an unrestricted use final remediation document prior to March 13, 2019) must be evaluated for PFOA and PFOS.  These include all sites that have a remedial action regulatory deadline of May 7, 2019.  It is highly recommended that a timeframe extension request be filed with the NJDEP.  All requests must be submitted on or before April 7, 2019.  The NJDEP listserv announcement can be found here.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) amended their Hazardous Substances Identification, Release Prohibition and Release Reporting, effective March 3, 2017. The regulations require that PFOA or PFOS-containing materials be evaluated at facilities that have been identified during NYDEC’s state-wide PFAS survey.  The NYDEC’s PFOS information page can be found here.

Massachusetts: MassDEP

Petition to create a regulatory structure for PFAS

On October 25, 2018, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Toxics Action Center (TAC) submitted a petition to MassDEP, “Petition for Rulemaking to Establish a Treatment Technique Drinking Water Standard for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.” MassDEP held a meeting on January 16, 2019, to consider the petition, and after the meeting will notify the petitioners of the Department’s actions. The petition, and information about the meeting, are available here. MassDEP’s response to the petition will also be made available here once completed. Learn more about PFAS  at the The MassDEP website.

Pennsylvania: PADEP

As reported in the January Newsletter, Governor Tom Wolf formed the PFAS Action Team to address the growing concerns in PA regarding PFAS. The PFAS Advisory Group cancelled their February Meeting due to snow. This meeting will be rescheduled. No new information to report at this time. However, you can keep up to date with the PFAS Action Team here.

In addition, states such as Alaska, Michigan, New Hampshire and Vermont are adopting their own standards regarding PFASs. Other States are looking into defining their own standards for PFAS.

David Robinson is an LSRP in New Jersey and manages Synergy’s Cherry Hill, NJ Office. Chris Horan is a Professional Geologist and LSP in Massachusetts. Brian Loughname is a Professional Geologist and Director of Geosciences in Synergy’s Royersford Office. Brink Young is Vice President of Business Development and is located in Synergy’s Royersford Office.



1. There are multiple statutory mechanisms available to designate PFAS as CERCLA hazardous substances, including CERCLA, RCRA, TSCA, CWA, and CAA.

2. A reference dose is an estimate of the amount of a chemical a person can ingest daily over a lifetime (chronic RfD) or less (subchronic RfD) that is unlikely to lead to adverse health effects.

3. hexafluoropropylene oxide (HFPO) dimer acid and its ammonium salt

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