In episode 061 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Shalene Thomas who is the is the Emerging Contaminants Program Manager for Amec Foster Wheeler about understanding emerging contaminants and Regulatory Matters for Civil Engineers.
Here are some of the questions I ask Shalene:
- What is PFAS?
- Why are these substances a concern now or have they been for a while?
- What kind of work is underway to help us better understand the effects these substances have on humans?
- What are the current drivers for action?
- What are some key EPA or state regulations related to PFAS one should be aware of?
- What are options for remediation and clean-up?
- As a civil engineer, what are three important take-away items to know about PFAS?
Here are some key points discussed in this episode on emerging contaminants and regulatory matters for civil engineers:
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) are a class of fluorinated compounds, that have been ubiquitously used in industry and personal consumer use.
- The Emerging Contaminants concern started back in 2008/9 when both the EPA and the Department of Defense developed emerging contaminant programs. These emerging contaminated programs were defined as chemicals that currently have no promulgated role or criteria for human health or environmental health effects. Both the EPA as well as the Department of Defense developed these programs with the intention of evaluating contaminants.
- The first known effect happened as early as 1978 when it was identified that there were detectable levels of fluorosurfactants in the human blood. The key health outcomes included: kidney and testicular cancer, colitis, thyroid disease, induced hypertension in pregnancy and high cholesterol.
- The primary driver in the current climate is the Department of Defense’s own guidance. The Air Force followed by the Navy, have all developed guidance documents to evaluate, manage and mitigate contamination related to the PFAS class of chemicals.
- The final driver for action has been primarily by social momentum e.g. Communities dealing with contaminated water supplies as a result of this emerging contaminants class.
- There are about a dozen states putting their step forward and developing their own regulatory guidance.
- There are a handful of remediation options out there that are using absorbent technologies to bind the PFAS out of the soil.
- It is important to not only evaluate remediation of the PFOS and PFOA contaminants but also identify, manage, mitigate and remediate their precursor compound.
- Some important takeaway items for civil engineers about PFAS would be to look at soil management, storm water management, and look for best practices for PFAS.
More details in this episode…
Shalene Thomas has more than 18 years of experience in environmental consulting and has supported clients with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) evaluations since 2009. She currently serves as the Technical Lead for PFAS assessment and site investigations at more than 100 sites for the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Navy. To date, she has supported PFAS projects in 20 different states in 9 of the 10 USEPA regions.
Amec Foster Wheeler
EPA Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office
Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in the Environment: Terminology, Classification, and Origins
EPA Rules Review for PFAS
EPA PFOA Stewardship Program
EPA TSCA Program and PFAS
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Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on Emerging Contaminants and Regulatory Matters for Civil Engineers.
To your success,
Christian Knutson, PE, PMP
Engineering Management Institute