California's Phased Investigation Approach to PFAS

Photo by  Ken Yam  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ken Yam on Unsplash

Last month the Division of Drinking Water and the Division of Water Quality announced the State Water Resources Control Board’s phased investigation approach to PFAS. It is the intention of the Board to begin the investigation by collecting PFAS detection data at 31 airports and 252 municipal solid waste landfills. These facilities have the potential to impact over 1,320 surrounding drinking water wells and drinking water sources.

The next phase of the investigation will be directed at potential manufacturing facilities: primary manufacturing facilities; refineries, bulk terminals, and other non-airport fire training areas; and 2017-2018 urban wildfire areas. The third phase of the investigation will be secondary manufacturing sites where PFAS may be used, domestic wells, and wastewater treatment and pre-treatment plants.

The State is planning to tackle regulation of PFAS in California in 2020 with possible adjustment to the Notification Levels (NLs) announced last July and the OEHHA Public Health Goals (PHGs), as well as establishment of Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) and a response strategy to PFAS detections.

PFAS—Polyfluoroalkyl Substances—are a diverse group of manufactured compounds frequently used as surfactants in industrial, consumer, military, and firefighting applications across the United States, such as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting products, textiles, carpeting, metal plating, paper food packaging, cleaning products, coating additives, and pesticides.

PFAS compounds exhibit distinctive chemical characteristics that make them stable in the environment and resistant to degradation, allowing them to bioaccumulate in soil, sediment, groundwater, and animal tissue over time. Two types of PFAS are particularly persistent: Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOS and PFOA are fully fluorinated organic compounds which happen to be the most commonly produced PFAS in the U.S.

Both the U.S. EPA and the State Board have identified various PFAS as having potential adverse effects on the environment and public health. To learn more about PFAS and PFAS testing services, visit