Presenter: Ross McFarland, AECOM (Aust)

Presentation title:  Difficulties in managing persistent organic pollutants, such as PFOS and PFOA, under emerging regulation internationally

There is a world-wide recognition of the potential adverse effects from persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), in particular perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (POFA).  These synthetic compounds are found in a wide variety of products, including non-stick cookware (Teflon®), breathable all-weather clothing, such as Gor-tex®, insecticides, stain resistant products, lubricants, and fire-fighting foams, such as Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF). PFCs were developed circa 1940s by the 3M Company (3M) and AFFF was developed by 3M in collaboration with the US Navy in the 1950s to combat Class B fires.  3M phased out manufacture of PFCs in 2002.    Given that PFCs are persistent, bioaccumulate, are globally ubiquitous and have been shown to be toxic they have received significant attention internationally and on 9 May 2009, PFOS was listed on the POP register (Annex B) of the Stockholm Convention subjecting restrictions on the manufacture and use of PFC products for signatory countries.     Generally, a proactive approach has been undertaken internationally to control the manufacture and use of PFCs, in particular in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany, with a number of major companies voluntarily committing to reducing emissions and phasing out production and ultimately eliminating production by 2015. It is noted that there are a number of community class actions against PFC manufactures, sludge reuse providers and Government agencies, whom have inadvertently impacted groundwater and surface water with PFCs. These actions are currently being legally and publically judged in the US and Canada. However, in many regions, regulation of the legacy of PFC related contamination is close to non-existent leaving many responsible parties and scientists without clear direction for the management of PFC impacted sites.    This paper and presentation will provide an overview of the challenges associated with characterization, management and design of appropriate remediation strategies for PFC impacted sites.  It also provides an overview of emerging regulations and trends.  Case study information is presented to demonstrate the inherent difficulties in addressing PFC impacts in an environmentally responsible manner under little to no regulation and/or governance. It is recognized that regulatory agencies in some instances are playing catch-up on this emerging issue due to resource, knowledge and financial constraints.    Sites involving the storage and use of AFFF may have resulted in PFC contamination of soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment and infrastructure, and these are therefore emerging as contaminant issues at aviation facilities, petroleum refineries and bulk storage facilities, fire training facilities and fire stations and some mining and chemical manufacturing sites.  Large dilute plumes can present potential significant financial and receptor risks, especially to any nearby surface water bodies or in areas where groundwater is used for consumption.  Large dilute plumes, often comingled with other contaminants, can make site characterization and remediation challenging.    Some international threshold screening standards have been developed for select receptors (primarily for drinking water and fish consumption).  However, standards are not in place for all PFCs, pathways and receptors (e.g. ecological receptors).  Whilst PFC remediation experience is evolving there is sufficient scientific evidence to confirm that PFCs are resistant to most conventional treatment technologies and that a combination of innovative and risk based remedial strategies (such as installation of discharge point filters, pump and treat, aerobic enzyme) are required to address this unique type of contamination.


Event: WasteMINZ Conference 2013

Date: Tuesday 22 October 2013