- On 22nd January 2020
- In Dredging, General, Sediment Management, Water Management
- By Izaak
In July 2018 the Dutch government followed the example of some US states in implementing action levels concerning PFAS substances, stating an upper limit of 0.1 μg / kg. This means that only sediment/silt/soil with PFAS concentrations below this limit can be re-used or disposed at sea.
However, because of the widespread disruption this has caused, according to the Dutch dredging industry 70% of projects have been halted, a review by the public health institute could be imminent and limits may be set to change.
What is PFAS?
PFAS, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of synthetic chemicals numbering over five thousand types. They are widely used in several industries due to their hydro and petro-phobic qualities. This includes Teflon non-stick, paints, cleaning products and firefighting foams. They’re characterised by fluorine and carbon bonds, making them extremely resistant to degradation, increasing their residence time in the natural environment.
What concerns are there regarding PFAS?
Studies have found potentially detrimental health impacts associated with PFAS substances, including liver and thyroid damage, decreased fertility and cancer. These concerns have led to the United States and recently the Netherlands implementing strict rules controlling the levels of PFAS allowed in the environment. This makes earth moving work, such as dredging, particularly complicated, as sediment with concentrations higher than the stated limit cannot be re-used or disposed at sea. Potentially increasing treatment costs and delaying projects across affected countries.
What PFAS regulations are there in the UK?
Pressure is now growing, particularly in Europe, for countries to follow the example of the Dutch government and implement stricter acceptance levels for PFAS substances. Currently the UK, for example, has published sediment screening values for the two most common types of PFAS, (PFOS and PFOA) at 0.014mg/kg dry weight (DW) (PFOS) and 0.022mg/kg DW (PFOA). However, these are not regulatory limits and there is currently little enforcement of these levels. Even in the US, where states such as New York, have adopted drinking water standards of 10ppt for PFOA and 10ppt for PFOS, at the federal level there is currently no binding regulatory legislation controlling these substances.
Following the actions of the Dutch government it can be expected that more scrutiny will be directed towards PFAS. In the UK, the environmental regulations after Brexit are still an unknown but UK dredging and environmental companies handling dredged material should be prepared for the potential disruption stricter controls will have on operations.
Exo Environmental is actively helping clients understand more about PFAS through sampling and analysis of their sediments. As licenced waste managers, with experience working with dredged material and the latest regulations, are well placed to sample any waterbody and advise on next steps. If you want to learn more about PFAS concentrations in your local sediment or the likely change in regulations, please contact us.