Thursday, June 22, 2023

Legislative Report On Proposed Changes To Biosolids Permits Finds No Approved Method Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemical' Testing, No Standards For PFAS In Biosolids; DEP Says Changes Needed To Protect Health, Environment

On June 21, the
Joint Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released a report on changes DEP proposed to general permits covering land application of biosolids from wastewater treatment plants and residential septage.

DEP proposed biosolids be tested for PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ and factoring phosphorus load levels into determining land application amounts.

The report found there is no federally approved testing method for PFAS in biosolids and no state or federal standard or limits for PFAS in biosolids.

[DEP has adopted PFOA and/or PFAS standards for drinking water and groundwater and soil cleanup standards under the Land Recycling Program. Read more here.]

The U.S. Environmental Protection is now doing a risk assessment for PFAS in biosolids to determine if federal regulatory action is warranted that is expected to be completed in December 2024, according to the report.

The report estimates PFAS testing may cost wastewater systems between $900 (once a year) and $13,000 (12 times) a year using a current method.

The proposal would also increase the cost of septic cleaning $90 to $150 per cleaning.

“We found these costs are likely to be manageable for larger facilities, but smaller facilities, which are also more rural-based permit holders, are likely to face a disproportionate impact over the long term as they struggle to improve their facility infrastructure.”

The report noted DEP did not have a clear idea of what it would do with the PFAS testing data given the absence of a PFAS standard for biosolids.

The report said the PFAS information could result in issues with landfilling, incineration and land application of biosolids, especially without a standard.

The report found Maine is the only state that bans the land application and recycling of wastewater biosolids containing PFAS chemicals. [Legislation passed in April 2022.]. 

[At the same time, PFAS sampling in some states found PFAS chemicals from a variety of sources already on farms.  Biocycle: Read more hereRead more here.

[Penn State research has found PFAS chemicals persist through the wastewater treatment process and may enter crops where treated wastewater is used for irrigation.  Read more here.

[The 2019 Pennsylvania PFAS Action Team Initial Report found “PFAS contamination is an emerging threat for … food products,” highlighting a Food and Drug Administration study that found PFAS chemicals in “everything from sweet potatoes, leafy greens and pineapples to seafood, meat, and chocolate cake.”

[The Action Team Report said, “experts say the use of contaminated biosolids applied on farm fields is likely a primary source of food contamination. Produce grown in soil contaminated with PFAS absorb the chemicals into their roots, fruit, and leaves, which humans and animals eat.”

[The Report recommended DEP update its biosolids general permits for land application and residential septage with a monitoring and reporting requirement for PFAS. Read more here.]

DEP Comments On Report

DEP comments on the LBFC report said “DEP believes that public health and environmental benefits of the proposed revisions to these permit-- which LBFC was not directed to study-- also need to be considered in weighing the public interest of the proposed permit revisions” (page 173).

DEP noted it has an obligation to protect ground and surface waters from PFAS contamination and DEP expects to begin requiring monitoring for PFAS in biosolids as part of implementing the federal EPA wastewater pretreatment program (page 176).

DEP offered 20 pages of comments on the LBFC report.

Click Here for a copy of the Joint Committee reportClick Here for a summary.


-- Children’s Health Defense News: Washington County Family Sickened By PFAS Chemicals Used In Chevron’s Shale Gas Fracking Wells, Lawsuit Alleges

-- Post-Gazette: 3M Makes $10.5 Billion National Settlement In PFAS ‘Forever Chemical’ Cases Involving Drinking Water

Related Articles:

-- Penn State Research: PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Persist Through Wastewater Treatment, May Enter Crops

-- DEP: Widespread Presence Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Fresh Water May Have Led To ‘Inadvertently’ Using Contaminated Water For Fracking Gas Wells In Washington County   [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension: Testing, Treating For PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' In PA Water Wells  [PaEN]

[Posted: June 22, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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