09-01-2021

Keeping Your Drinking Water Safe

Poly And Perfluoroalkyl What?

You’ve probably heard the term PFAS in the news and at work, but you may not have had a chance to read up on it. PFAS, short for poly and perfluoroalkyl substances, is a class of more than 6,000 different chemical compounds that you almost certainly encounter in your daily life. You may even consume PFAS via drinking water.

PFAS are commonly found in cleaning products, plastics, non-stick cookware, fabrics, furniture materials, carpets, and firefighting foams. While the chemicals are no longer used in the production of new U.S. products, they are present in older products and still appear in some products produced overseas. These materials also exist in legacy waste management facilities like sewage treatment plants and landfills in the US. When those chemicals leach into drinking water sources, they may lead to pregnancy complications, cancer, or liver disease. Due to the long half-lives of the chemicals, PFAS are sometimes referred to as the “forever chemicals.”

Our Role In Addressing PFAS Concerns

We’re proud to currently be working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) on its Inactive Landfill Initiative (ILI). The $23 million program is the first of its kind and addresses critical drinking water contamination concerns associated with emerging contaminants from inactive landfills including PFAS compounds, along with other chemicals of concern (i.e., VOCs, SVOCs, metals).

We have supported the ILI program since 2017, helping to conceive, develop, and implement the program in conjunction with the NYSDEC. To date, we’ve investigated more than 280 inactive landfills across the state, collected thousands of samples, and evaluated the results to better understand the risks to human health based on a variety of landfill characteristics. These results are assessed by the NYSDEC and New York Department of Health, who recommend actions that are put into place.

“We’re proud to be helping the NYSDEC fulfil its overall mission to protect the environment and enhance the health and safety of all New Yorkers. The ILI program provides a unique look into this complex issue that can serve as a model for other programs across the U.S. and abroad,” said Pratima Poplai, our U.S. Environmental Leader. “The data we have gathered will serve to proactively monitor and develop decontamination and mitigation plans to help protect drinking water for years to come.”

Shaping National Standards For PFAS

Establishing acceptable levels of PFAS in drinking water has been top of mind for many lawmakers. The Biden Administration is currently working to pass federal PFAS legislation via the PFAS Action Act of 2021, which would aid the United States Environmental Protection Agency in their quest to develop and promulgate national standards for PFAS in drinking water and in the environment. Many states are also promulgating state and local standards for PFAS compounds that are designed to protect their residents. 

We actively support the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council both financially and with active hands-on support from our technical leaders in developing guidance to help lawmakers develop environmental policy pertaining to PFAS and the remedial industry in managing PFAS impacts. We also support the Department of Defense and many other municipal and commercial clients in assessing and managing PFAS to protect human health and the environment across the United States and Canada.

New regulations will impact businesses and industries on many levels, and we’re proud of our environmental team that stands ready to lend our groundbreaking expertise.

Clean safe drinking water is vitally important to human health and the environment.

To learn more about our PFAS solutions, watch this video.

About The Author

Tom Drachenberg, PE, is Parsons’ NYSDEC Program Manager and oversees the Inactive Landfill Initiative. He has 22 years of project management experience involving all phases of remediation, including site investigations, feasibility studies, predesign investigations, remedial design, and remedial action.

About The Author

Dan Griffiths, PG, a Parsons Fellow, has 24 years of experience designing and implementing investigation plans and remedies at industrial and US Department of Defense sites, specializing in complex, high-priority sites impacted with chlorinated solvents, metals, and emerging contaminants.

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