Staying Ahead of Uncertainty
Langan Takes Lead on the Complex Topic of Emerging Contaminants
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) may not roll off the tongue, but as an environmental concern, they are top of mind. These compounds, part of a family of thousands of man-made chemicals used in manufacturing processes and the production of a broad range of consumer products such as flame retardant foams, stain-fighting chemicals, water-resistant materials, and non-stick cookware, are ubiquitous in our daily lives and the environment.
Moreover, PFAS are extremely soluble, which means they easily dissolve in groundwater, allowing them to travel far below ground, making them difficult to delineate, let alone remediate. PFAS compounds also bio-accumulate, posing potential health concerns. In other words, a property not responsible for producing or releasing PFAS, could be affected by them; and those alleged to be the cause of the contamination may not be the sole cause, as some plumes have migrated for miles and could be conjoined from multiple sources.
The environmental community – consultants, attorneys, regulators – have long known about these particular emerging contaminants. Yet, to date, scientific understanding is lagging and there is no consensus in the way of risk assessments, or the proper means and methods to measure the extent and concentration of these compounds. At Langan, however, there is no wait-and-see approach.
“As an environmental advocate to our clients and a trusted consultant with state and local regulators, we can’t throw our hands in the air and wait for answers,” said Caryn Barnes, Principal, Langan. “Our team of environmental experts is proactively working to advance the science and establish methods for sampling and protocols for performing due diligence in an effort to properly advise clients, assess risks and potential liabilities, and apply effective remedial solutions to this issue.”
Inconsistency adds to the complexity. The Federal government has yet to promulgate standards for PFAS, although they have published health advisory levels. The EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan in February 2019, with a goal to propose a drinking water regulatory determination for two PFAS compounds by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, some states have a different sense of urgency and have published PFAS standards, while others have no standards at all. Although there is some movement on the state and federal level to develop groundwater or drinking water standards, little has been done for other environmental media such as soil and surface water. Within Langan, where environmental scientists practice from 30 locations around the U.S., the firm keeps informed of all PFAS developments and communicates them seamlessly in an effort to bring what all agree is needed regarding this vexing problem … consistency in our approach and certainty.
To learn about Langan’s engagement with emerging contaminants, read more.