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Power Of Three: Cohesive Interstate Approach to Handling Emerging Contaminants

By Steve Dwyer

Over the last few years, the Northeast has seen several high profile cases of groundwater and drinking water impacts by so-called "emerging contaminants," most notably Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

These sites have generated a large public interest, and have left state agencies racing to assess the potential impacts within their jurisdictions and to develop regulations and standards protective of human health and the environment.

Various states have taken various approaches to regulating emerging contaminants; some have developed their own standards while others have adopted or expanded US EPA's advisory levels. As a result, there are fairly broad differences in standards and management approaches among states.

At November's RE3 Conference in Philadelphia, a Technical Panel culled from three states (Conn., Mass. and N.J.) and encompassing three group's (EPOC, LSRP and Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association, Mt. Laurel, NJ) will focus on the power of collaboration, emphasizing the advantages of how it can truly be executed across state lines on the aforementioned emerging issues.

The panel session will summarize and compare the various standards and management approaches adopted by the three northeast states with licensed site remediation professional programs. Speakers representing these various state programs will discuss how each state is handling emerging contaminants, with supporting case studies and particular focus on PFAS and 1,4-dioxane.

Jeffrey Holden, senior engineer for GEI Consultants Inc., Ithaca, NY, says that "the discussion of emerging contaminants, and particularly PFAS, is critical because of the attention these chemicals are receiving from the public, regulators, and the scientific community. Based on some high profile national headlines, communities are concerned about the quality of their water supply. In general, state regulators are scrambling to develop or adopt media-specific standards and assess the degree of impacts within their state."

Holden adds that "the broad historical use of these chemicals, combined with their environmental persistence, part-per-trillion levels of potential health effects, and existence of unquantified precursor compounds, means their presence at environmentally relevant concentrations may be widespread."

The approaches to management and regulation of these compounds vary among the three states with licensed site remediation professional, "creating uncertainty for the practitioners and regulated communities," says Holden, who has over 25 years of experience in the investigation and remediation of industrial sites under various regulatory programs including Superfund, RCRA, TSCA, and the Massachusetts Contingency Plan.

Caryn Barnes, LSRP Principal/Vice President, LANGAN, says that "emerging contaminants present technical, regulatory and ethical challenges for the regulated community as a result of inconsistent promulgation of groundwater remediation and drinking water standards under federal and state programs."

While the US EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) has identified potential concerns with the presence of ECs in the public water supply, state and federal policy makers have been unable to agree on how (or even whether) to regulate these contaminants, notes Barnes.

"The tangle of inconsistent regulations/guidance that has emerged from this morass has confused the regulated community and the general public about true risks and legal obligations, and has reinvigorated debate on the question of "how clean is clean?" says Barnes. "We will review some of the reasons for the divergent scheme of EC regulations across different states that exists today, along with related technical, legal and ethical problems."

The session will also provide a recent case study involving a multi-party site in New Jersey that is regulated under numerous programs (CERCLA, RCRA, New Jersey's Industrial Site Recovery Act and the Licensed Site Remediation Professional program), and which is alleged to have contributed to impacts in a municipal well field.

"As standards aren't being consistently promulgated, the risks and required mitigation actions need to be communicated consistently across agencies and to the regulated community. Proactive communication leads to coordinated and protective responses," concludes Barnes.

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