CALIFORNIA REGULATORY UPDATE Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)


On March 20, 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Division of Drinking Water, rolled out Phase 1 of its PFAS Phased Investigation Plan (Plan) to systematically evaluate the potential presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in waters of the state. Numerous airports that were identified as facilities that have accepted, stored, or used materials that may contain PFAS received Orders for information and investigation under Water Code Section 13267. That section of the Water Code gives the Regional Water Quality Control Boards the authority to request such activities. Other facilities and industries included in Phase 1 of the Plan include: 

Drinking Water wells that are within a 2-mile radius of the airports.

Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

Drinking Water wells that are within a 1-mile radius of the landfills.

Drinking Water sources within a 1-mile radius of UCMR3  detections, plus adjacent small systems

The SWRCB plans to issue Orders under Phase 2 and 3 of the Plan this summer or fall.

PFAS are an emerging class of contaminants that are widely distributed in the environment because of their persistence and because their surfactant properties have led to their use in an enormous array of commercial and industrial products (e.g., non-stick cookware, water proofing, fire-fighting foams). Characterizing and remediating PFAS is challenging due to the complexity, mobility, and persistence of these chemicals in the environment. Federal and state health advisories have established very low thresholds for these compounds in drinking water. 

Regulatory requirements, particularly at the state level, are increasing rapidly. Other recent regulatory developments in California include:  

Late last year, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added two PFAS compounds, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity. This listing comes with warning requirements for manufacturers and businesses and a prohibition on discharges into sources of drinking water -- requirements that go into effect in November 2018 and July 2019, respectively.

In June 2018, OEHHA recommended interim notification levels for PFOA (14 parts per trillion [ppt]) and PFOS (13 ppt). These levels, which were subsequently adopted by the SWRCB in July 2018, are significantly lower than the Drinking Water Health Advisories established by the U.S. EPA for these chemicals (70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS – singly or in combination).  

Even prior to the statewide, phased Plan, regulatory agencies had already started to request sampling for PFAS at some sites within California. 

GSI Environmental Inc. has been retained on multiple matters involving PFAS fate and transport, exposure, and health effects in California and across the U.S. We have conducted leading edge research on the fate and transport and remediation of PFAS through projects awarded through industry and governmental agencies. GSI staff participate on the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) PFAS Team and have been instrumental in establishing technical resources and developing guidelines and methodologies regarding the investigation, environmental fate and transport, toxicity, and remediation of PFAS. 


For more information, please contact:

Irvine                                                 Oakland
Matt Lentz                                          Linda Hall
(949) 679-1070                                  (510) 463-8491
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