Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are considered emerging contaminants by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are of great public health and environmental concern. While there are no national Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFAS contaminants, there are lifetime health advisories (LHA) established for PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid). The EPA currently has established a non-enforceable health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the sum of PFOA and PFOS. States are waiting on national guidance from EPA for regulatory compliance criteria, but many already provide fact sheets for the public, regulate the storage and discharge of certain PFAS containing products, and several states have adopted or have proposed MCLs for PFAS. Twenty-one states have provided their resource links to the EPA website. Sampling guidelines and testing methods are documented; yet, they continue to be modified and amended as more information is gained through research in the field and developments in laboratory testing methods. This includes the addition of new PFAS compounds as they are identified.
Designing a successful PFAS sampling plan starts with an open line of communication with your testing facility prior to sample collection. Given background on the project, the laboratory is better equipped to provide meaningful results.
We recommend discussing each of the following topics with your project manager prior to your sampling event:
- Sampling techniques
- Sampling containers
- Regulatory compliance factors
- List of PFAS compounds
- Testing method
PFAS is in just about everything around us. Understanding proper sampling techniques provides reliable results and minimizes background contamination. This includes using proper PPE and a suitable sampling container. This is more than simply finding high density polyethylene (HDPE) containers. Depending upon the matrix and the potential level of PFAS contamination, the size of the bottle also matters. For example, typical bottle volumes of 8mL to 250mL are collected for aqueous samples. Each is intended to provide sufficient sample volume to the labor analysis, while minimizing both potential contamination in the lab and the volume of hazardous waste. Communicate to the laboratory any known matrix challenges (such as foam in an aqueous sample) and potential PFAS concentration levels in the samples.
Since individual states have either adopted or proposed regulations for PFAS compounds, this presents challenges in complying with regulatory requirements. Complicating this situation is the rapid pace of change in our understanding of these compounds. This has resulted in updates to reporting requirements, testing methodologies, and the number of reportable PFAS compounds. This may translate into redesigning the sampling and testing program(s) previously used. Again, this highlights the importance of always speaking with a project manager prior to sampling.
Communication with your laboratory really is the key to successful PFAS sampling and will result in process efficiencies and most importantly, reliable data.
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