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What Are PFAS and Why Are They an Issue?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of approximately 5,000 anthropogenic fluorinated chemicals whose presence in the environment is becoming of significant interest both in the United States and abroad.  PFAS have been used since the 1940s in numerous industrial and residential products such as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) for firefighting, metal plating, food packaging, specialty surfactants, non-stick cookware, water-resistant fabrics, and others.

Understanding release mechanisms and pathways, assessment strategies, fate and transport, and remediation of PFAS continues to prove to be challenging.  PFAS is found somewhat ubiquitous in nature, from military installations, sewage treatment facilities, drinking water wells, and even in air.  Some PFAS, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), are thought to be recalcitrant and bioaccumulate, thus posing potential significant impacts to humans and the environment.  Ongoing toxicological work indicates PFAS exposure may have suggestive carcinogenic potential while other studies potentially link PFAS to elevated cholesterol levels, immune system response and function, low birth weight, and others (ITRC, 2018). 

Chemical Structure of PFOA (Utah Department of Environmental Quality)

PFAS owe their recalcitrant nature to their chemical structure, which is commonly defined as being a “two-part” chemical.  The first part, referred to as the “tail”, is comprised of covalently bonded carbon and fluorine.  This carbon-fluorine bond is known to be one of the strongest in nature, due to the large differences in electronegativity between carbon and fluorine.  The “head” consists of a functional group such as a carboxylic or sulfonic acid, typically found in nature as a negatively charged anion.  Together, the head and the tail give PFAS its remarkable hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties.

How Can EEC Help?

EEC has extensive experience in dealing with emerging contaminants, such as PFAS, and the challenges they bring. Over the years, EEC has successfully helped its clients deal with emerging contaminants, such as hexavalent chromium, 1,4-dioxane, and perchlorate, and has developed comprehensive cost-effective site investigation and remedial solutions. With the evolving nature of emerging contaminant issues, EEC remains at the forefront by keeping up to date with current regulatory issues, such as the development of health advisory/notification levels and testing for PFAS in drinking water, issuance of investigative orders for corrective action and site investigation, development of testing protocols in drinking water and groundwater, and evaluating treatment technologies to remove PFAS from water.

EEC is committed to assisting its clients with potential upcoming issues with PFAS. Whether it’s groundwater, surface water, or drinking water sampling; or developing the best treatment approach for cleanup, EEC’s team of highly experienced scientists, geologists, and engineers have the capability to address the emerging issues revolving around PFAS.

EEC’s Services for PFAS:

  • Feasibility studies for PFAS removal in water, wastewater, and leachate
  • Owners agent / Owners Advisor for water purveyors
  • Subsurface investigation and sampling of soil, sediments and groundwater
  • Historical research and source identification
  • Plume evaluation and modeling
  • Remedial design and treatment of soil, sediments, and groundwater
  • Industrial wastewater treatment
  • Aerially deposited PFAS studies
  • Installation of remediation systems


EEC Presented at the 22nd Annual CUPA Conference February 3-6, 2020

EEC presented at the 22nd Annual California Unified Program Annual Training Conference (CUPA) February 3-6, 2020 in Burlingame, California. EEC’s Emily Vavricka presented on the emerging contaminant PFAS, focusing on PFAS sampling procedures, analytical methods, and current regulatory updates.

The California CUPA Forum is a non-profit 501(c)(6) statewide association that works with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the California Office of Emergency Services, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the State Water Resources Control Board and Cal EPA to update and continuously improve the Unified Program for the agencies, businesses and the communities that are served. For the past 21 years, the California CUPA Forum Board has invited both government entities and industries to attend and receive the same training at the annual training conference.

EEC is a nationally recognized leader in the field of soil, soil vapor, and groundwater assessment, remediation, due diligence, and compliance through “Out of the Box” unique technical solutions blended with industry proven strategies.

For more information on the 22nd Annual California CUPA Training Conference, please click here.

EEC exhibited at the 28th Annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, CA to Feature PFAS

EEC Environmental (EEC) exhibited at the 28th Annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, October 17-20, 2019.

The Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite® is nationally recognized as the largest and most prestigious gathering in California of leaders in environmental, land use, and natural resources law.

EEC featured our expertise in tackling Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which pose a serious human health risk leading to stringent action levels in California and throughout the US. 

EEC provides a broad spectrum of litigation support ranging from scientific investigations to expert testimony in state and federal courts. EEC’s ability to provide a reliable scientific basis for overcoming or minimizing contentious issues includes experience in matters related to contamination of soil, soil vapor, and groundwater; geologic and hydrogeological issues; industrial wastewater; historical document research and PRP Identification; CERCLA cost allocation; and insurance cost recovery.

Click the following link at https://calawyers.org/section/environmental-law/yosemite/ for more information.

Latest News: California Sets the Lowest Notification Levels for PFAS in the Country

The California State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW), has accepted the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) recent recommendation on new lower Notification Levels (NLs) for PFOA and for PFOS. On August 23, 2019, the DDW announced it established notification levels for PFOS and PFOA at 6.5 parts per trillion for PFOS and 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA. These new levels are set at the lowest levels at which they can be reliably detected in drinking water using currently available analytical detection methods.

More information can be found here.