A practical approach to tackling PFAS at industrial sites

The chemicals known collectively as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) were developed more than half a century ago and have been used at many industrial sites around the world every since.

They became popular because they can impart a range of useful properties to products, such as the ability to repel water and oil and resist chemicals and temperature.

But over time PFAS were found to accumulate in the bodies of living organisms, including humans, potentially causing unintended environmental or human health impacts because they are highly leachable and travel significant distances and persist within source areas decades after being released.

Unlike many other chemical contaminants, PFAS are difficult to destroy and won’t naturally degrade, which makes assessing and remediating PFAS contamination a complex task.

Despite the scale of the remediation challenge, Golder has found that there are pragmatic approaches that can rapidly identify, prioritise and reduce PFAS risks, delivering good news stories for clients, regulators, communities and environments.

Golder has outlined practical approaches to tackling PFAS at industrial sites.

Getting started

Start by gathering as much existing historical information about the uses of PFAS at your site. Include interviews with past and present personnel, inspections of site activities, reviews of chemical manifests, containment systems, waste systems, and assess the frequency and locations of PFAS product use or disposal.

This desktop review should allow you to home in on the key areas of your site where PFAS may be most prevalent.

Building a preliminary picture 

The next step is to build a preliminary picture by developing a conceptual site model. This identifies where PFAS from your site might be impacting a potential receptor such as nearby residents, animals or fish. Consider PFAS movement that could link sources and receptors through pathways, such as groundwater seepage, stormwater runoff and airborne movement of foam.

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