Opinion: What’s next for PFAS in Australia?

February 19, 2019

Opinion: What’s next for PFAS in Australia?

The United States’ Environment Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has released a PFAS Action Plan (EPA 823R18004, February 2019) as part of a national effort to understand per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and reduce the risks to the public.

The Plan describes the U.S. EPA’s approach to identifying and understanding PFAS, addressing current contamination, preventing future contamination and communicating with the public about the issue.

Some of the key PFAS challenges include:

  • Providing regulatory certainty for PFAS in drinking water

  • Holding responsible parties accountable for PFAS releases into the environment

  • Providing guidance for groundwater cleanup at contaminated sites

  • Increased understanding about potential human health impacts of additional PFAS

  • Many of these initiatives are well underway with some due for completion/resolution in 2019.

    A multitude of different standards and guidance values are currently being applied across different U.S. State agencies. The standardised approach to managing drinking water and groundwater cleanup actions will no doubt be instrumental in creating certainty for various regulators. This will also provide surety for water/wastewater utilities, and for remediation contractors/technology providers to invest more heavily in developing technology solutions.

    In Australia, the environmental industry is eagerly awaiting the release of the National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP) 2.0. All stakeholders are seeking regulatory certainty. The increased efforts and investment currently being undertaken in the U.S. and other parts of the world will no doubt be of interest in the development of a robust regulatory framework in Australia.

    The idea of an Australian Federal Environmental Protection Agency is likely to be a hot political topic in the upcoming Federal election due before May 2019, with the Labour Party stating that if elected they will establish a new Federal environmental law, create an independent Commonwealth Environmental Protection Agency and introduce new approval triggers. Even if Labour is not elected, the key Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is up for review this year, which means no matter who is elected, there will almost certainly be changes to Australia’s environmental laws.

    Enviropacific actively liaises with State and Federal authorities to understand their position on PFAS management and share our experiences in treating PFAS in its various forms. The hope is that this information sharing will help inform governments about appropriate cleanup targets that aim to strike the balance between protecting the environment and affected communities while considering the financial impact on industry.

    We are proud of our ongoing efforts in providing solutions using existing robust technologies while also exploring new innovative technologies to enable an overall reduction in PFAS impacts across the country.

    Andrew Thomas
    National PFAS Technical Manager