National and state health and environmental agencies, including U.S. EPA and Oregon DEQ, are addressing concerns over per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment. Contamination of groundwater supplies has been a concern, particularly in the Eastern United States, especially near airports and military bases. There is also growing concern about PFAS in wastewater sludge and biosolids across the nation. Accordingly, it has become increasingly important for clean water agencies to understand, communicate, and be prepared to mitigate any found risk to customers and stakeholders.
Currently, PFAS contamination is an unknown risk with unclear health and environmental impacts, especially in Oregon. ACWA has determined that it is in the best interest of our members to become informed and to share what we learn with our members to assist you in making decisions and communicating with officials and the public.
Several efforts are now underway to support ACWA members in understanding potential PFAS impacts in Oregon, and support education and information sharing as we learn more. ACWA has taken the following actions:
- ACWA PFAS Workgroup—The ACWA PFAS Workgroup of technical, Policy, and communications experts from member agencies, DEQ, and drinking water partners, meet periodically and shares information. The Workgroup intends to provide best practices on sampling approaches and will share relevant sources and information with ACWA members. The PFAS Workgroup developed several strategies to address evolving local, state, and federal actions regarding PFAS, and to convey recommendations to local jurisdictions and regulators.
- Sharing PFAS Information and Recommendations – In August 2022, the ACWA PFAS Workgroup published a white paper – Managing PFAS in Oregon: A Clean Water Agency Perspective – to lay out what we know about PFAS and recommend ways of reducing the PFAS pollution. ACWA members can use the paper to support local development of PFAS reduction actions and risk communication strategies.
- Collaborating with DEQ—ACWA coordinates with DEQ to help align state and local government approaches and messages, inform state legislators, and share information, technical expertise, and communications.
- Seeking Additional Knowledge—ACWA is working with member agencies to better understand this emerging contaminants of concern. Some of ACWA’s large member agencies have started sampling work. A 2023 update to ACWA’s PFAS Sampling and Analysis Plan Template is now available for use by your agency. It is being used by some of Oregon’s larger wastewater utilities and will be guiding the monitoring work of smaller communities as part of ACWA’s EPA PFAS reduction grant project.
- Linking with National Organizations—The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and the Water Environment Foundation (WEF) members have been involved in national discussions regarding industry response and action. The ACWA PFAS Workgroup is closely linked to and following the efforts at national and regional levels to understand the impact of the persistence of PFAS in the environment. The NACWA and WEF PFAS Fact Sheet provides a good overview of PFAS concerns. ACWA is building additional partnerships, especially to support coordinated information sharing. It is important that clean water agencies communicate and share resources as we learn more.
- Green Science Policy Institute videos—PFAS
- Understanding Biosolids and PFAS — Clean Water Services
- PFAS in Biosolids – A Southern Arizona Case Study
- Public Wastewater Community Comments on Sierra Club Report on PFAS in Biosolids
- Addressing PFAS in Oregon (DEQ-OHA website)
- PFAS Receivers Group Fact Sheet
- DEQ-OHA PFAS Fact Sheet
- EPA Strategic Roadmap 2021-2024
- EPA Development of Human Health and Aquatic Life Criteria Development for PFAS
- EPA Clean Water Act Laboratory Analytical Methods (including wastewater and biosolids)
- US Food and Drug Administration
- NACWA resources
- NACWA and WEF PFAS Fact Sheet
- Comprehensive PFAS Website Page and Fact Sheet (produced by Orange County Water District, CA)
- Metropolitan Water District—Southern California PFAS Fact Sheet
- Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC)–PFAS technical and regulatory resources
Stay tuned for more information in the coming months as we continue to learn more about PFAS in Oregon. Contact the ACWA office if you or a member of your agency wants to join the ACWA PFAS Work Group.