The BE3 team is at the forefront as experts in the environmental areas required to reduce and eliminate human and environmental exposure to these emerging chemicals of concern.
Because of their unique and useful properties, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. The rapid interest in the identification of these “chemicals of emerging concern” has resulted in the need for experts to Identify them and reduce exposure to humans and the environment.
BE3’s PFAS services range from initial assessment through remediation and include:
- Identification and survey of building materials and products
- Waste stream removal, impacted select demolition, remediation activities and complete demolition
- Sampling and analysis of environmental media
- Remedial design, remediation and remedial clearance of buildings and the environment
These amazing products of the last twenty or so years that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water have dazzled consumers. Water-repellent clothing, furniture, adhesives, paint and varnish, food packaging, heat resistant non-stick cooking surfaces and insulation of electrical wires are just some of the products and uses.
But what is the downside? Due to their widespread use, slow breakdown, and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. Because of the very nature of why they are so widely used, these compounds remain in the environment and in the human body for many years. Therefore, these compounds have become high on the list of chemicals of concern in most states across the country.
The BE3 team includes engineers, geologists, scientists, construction managers, technicians and building materials and demolition experts. We are highly proficient in the assessment, sampling, analysis and remedial design for PFAS contamination. Besides the environmental engineering expertise in assessment, sampling and remedial design, our experience covers building material survey experts in PFAS containing materials to waste stream demolition and removal contractor’s expert in the proper removal, and disposition of materials containing or impacted with PFAS chemicals.
Our team provides government agencies, municipalities, and private developers soup to nuts expertise regarding these emerging chemicals of concern. We can provide the various pieces or function as a turnkey operation with experts who will provide the initial survey, perform the testing and sampling, develop the remedial design, operate the remedial systems and complete focused demolition/renovation and clearance for distressed properties.
Outside of the Building Envelope. The BE3 team is expert at the sampling and analysis of the various environmental media – air, soil and water – impacted by PFAS chemicals and the follow-up remedial design and remediation of these environmental media.
Inside Buildings at Existing Facilities and Industrial Sites. PFAS remediation efforts can be vast and complicated. The BE3 team completes building inventory, pre-testing, select demolition and/or demolition and remediation activities.
For buildings, the BE3 team has been involved with cleaning of facilities contaminated with PFAS and employed nano filtration techniques to obtain non-detect levels. In terms of environmental remediation, members of the BE3 team, including a renowned expert in Specialty Remediation have completed detailed remedial approaches and design. Our expert team member was recently awarded a grant to investigate the complete reduction of solvents in groundwater plumes co-mingled with PFAS chemicals. Part of this study will determine the microbial influence on the solvents and the PFAS chemicals and their degradation. The research project will fill these data gaps, as well as investigate the potential for microbial-chemical PFAS transformation.
Because of their unique properties and ubiquity in common products, there are also specific requirements for sampling of these chemicals, including strict procedures for clothing worn and the material composition of equipment and tools used for sampling. For projects in New York State, we follow NYSDEC guidance found in “Sampling, Analysis, and Assessment of Per- And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Under NYSDEC’s Part 375 Remedial Programs June 2021”. For soil, water and sediment samples, New York State Guidance DER-10 specifies technical guidance applicable to “best management practices” specific to sampling for PFAS. Acceptable materials for sampling include stainless steel, HDPE, PVC, silicone, acetate, and polypropylene. No sampling equipment components or sample containers should come in to contact with aluminum foil, low density polyethylene, glass, or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, Teflon™) materials including sample bottle cap liners with a PTFE layer. Field staff must even consider the clothing to be worn during sampling activities. Clothing that contains PTFE material (including GORE-TEX®) or that have been waterproofed with PFAS materials are avoided and it is best if the clothing worn have been laundered multiple times.
The use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam has been the subject of recent publications. These aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) for firefighting and fire training have been widely used to extinguish class B flammable liquid fires. AFFFs have become common at fire houses training centers and airports, or other facilities used in training and emergency response such as shipyards, military bases, chemical plants, and refineries. Subsequently, these locations can be found to have elevated levels of PFAS.
This recent notoriety has resulted in new requirements for storage, training and equipment cleaning associated with AFFF. Potentially impacted areas are likely to include firefighting training and equipment maintenance areas, disposal areas, treatment lagoons, or drainage and wastewater systems used to channel or contain fire-extinguishing materials after use. Bulk fuel storage areas at major facilities also often have fire suppression systems charged with AFFF, and accidental fuel releases are often sprayed with foam to prevent ignition.
Please consider the BE3 team the next time you need experts on these emerging chemicals of concern
Household Products : PFAS- Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
What Are They? Where Do They Come From?
There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), for example, are two of the most widely used and studied chemicals in the PFAS group. These have been replaced in the United States with other PFAS in recent years.
One common characteristic of concern of PFAS is that many of these compounds breakdown very slowly and can build up in people, animals, and the environment over time. PFAS are synthetic fluorinated organic chemicals with unique properties including both water and oil repellency and surfactant properties which make them commercially valuable and found in a wide variety of products and industrial processes.
PFAS have rapidly gained regulatory concern because they are now known to be widely spread in our environment. They are present in water, soil, air, and food as well as in materials found in our homes and workplaces. The increased emphasis in sampling and analyzing for these compounds has resulted documenting their presence at alarming levels in various media. PFAS have shown up in public drinking water systems, private drinking water wells and production wells. They have been found in soil and water at or near landfills, disposal sites, and hazardous waste sites. They are found at manufacturing or chemical production facilities that produce or use PFAS such as chrome plating, electronics, and certain textile and paper manufacturers.
Also, PFAS are found in various forms of food packaging such as grease-resistant paper, fast food containers/wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and candy wrappers and subsequently in our foods including in fish caught from water contaminated by PFAS and dairy products from livestock exposed to PFAS. These chemicals have been found in numerous household products such as stain and water-repellent used on carpets, upholstery, clothing, and other fabrics; cleaning products; non-stick cookware; paints, varnishes, metal coatings, roofing materials and sealants and more importantly household dust. PFAS compounds are also found in various personal care products like shampoo, dental floss, and cosmetics.
Regulatory Oversight : PFAS – What Do We Do About It?
Within the last five years there has been an increasing regulatory requirement for sampling for PFAS in environmental media. It began with requirements to check for these chemicals in groundwater samples at Superfund and Brownfield sites, followed shortly by requirements to sample and analyze for PFAS in soils and other environmental media and drinking water sources. There has been a surge in both federal and state regulatory interest to address human health and environmental risks from releases of PFAS chemicals. Legacy impacts to soils and groundwater may have led to their spread to off-site receptors such as nearby water supply and/or surface water habitats.
Recently, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed changes to enhance the regulation of these chemicals. Referred to as “emerging contaminants” or “chemicals of emerging concern,” the new regulations are being advanced to strengthen programs to clean up properties across New York State. The same is true for other states across the country driven by extensive studies by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Emerging contaminants, or contaminants of emerging concern, are starting to be a prime focus of EPA and the states. Recently, focus has been directed at the breakdown of or disposal of medicines, personal care or household cleaning products, lawn care and agricultural products, among others. These chemicals are showing up in our lakes and rivers, soils, sediments, the foods we eat and the air we breathe.
The two PFAS that are commonly encountered in the environment and are the most studied are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). PFOA and PFOS have been replaced in the United States with other PFAS in recent years. One common characteristic of concern of PFAS is that many of these compounds breakdown very slowly and thus build up in people, animals, and the environment over time. As early as the 1990s, studies reported the widespread detection of these two compounds in human blood serum.
Regulation of PFAS started in the early 2000s. PFOA and PFOS were removed from the market by 2002 under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) affecting the eight largest PFOA/PFOS manufacturers in the U.S. As noted, regulatory activity in the U.S. initially has focused on PFAS in drinking water. In 2016, the EPA published a provisional drinking water health advisory (DWHA). As of April 2020, 24 states have developed action levels for PFOS and PFOA in water and/or soil, and several have expanded to other materials. In February 2020, EPA announced a “Proposed Decision to Regulate PFOA and PFOS in Drinking Water”. For soils, non-enforceable regulatory guideline values or “screening levels” were initially developed by the EPA for three PFAS (PFOS, PFOA, and PFBS). PFAS leach readily from soil and New York State has proposed updates to the State’s Soil Cleanup Objectives (SCOs) for PFOA, PFOS, aniline, and nitrobenzene to reflect the designation of these chemicals as hazardous substances. Final regulations will be sometime after April 21, 2022.