Municipal Water Coalition announce PFAS initiative

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Published: Oct. 18, 2019 at 6:19 PM CDT
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The Municipal Water Coalition announced an initiative to address PFAS sources that could find their way into municipal wastewater treatment plants, often referred to as Publicly Owned Treatment Works.

The coalition announced on Friday a plan to work with facilities to reduce sources of PFAS through product substitution or other Pollution Minimization Plan (PMP) alternatives.

An alliance of groups representing municipal water and wastewater utilities, the coalition comprises of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Rural Water Association, Municipal Environmental Group – Wastewater Division, Municipal Environmental Group – Water Division and the Wisconsin Section of the American Water Works Association.

The coalition stated wastewater treatment facilities are not “producers” or “users” of PFAS chemicals, in a statement on Friday afternoon. The release stated POTWs are “receivers” of these chemicals used by manufacturers and consumers, and merely convey or manage the traces of PFAS that we encounter in our daily lives.

Because PFAS are ubiquitous in households, consumer products, food, and the environment generally, they can make their way into the wastewater stream. The solution to these concerns is to reduce PFAS coming into POTWs because “end of pipe” treatment for POTWs is not feasible, according to the coalition.

The coalition have advised their wastewater utility members not to undertake sampling at this time as a precursor to taking action.

The coalition announced they are in the process of developing a screening criteria to identify any commercial or industrial dischargers in a POTW’s sewer service area that could potentially be users of PFOS and PFOA containing materials. The screening criteria will be based on a tool used in Michigan, with feedback from the DNR, coalition members and other stakeholders, according to the coalition.

Once potential dischargers have been identified, the coalition plans to advise their wastewater utility members to contact these individual dischargers and work with them to identify and reduce the use of products containing contaminants like PFOS AND PFOA. POTWs have successfully used this approach to reduce mercury and chlorides in wastewater flowing in, according to the coalition.

There are currently no surface water standards for PFAS compounds, in addition to sampling protocols and lab certification having not yet been completed for PFAS compounds, according to the coalition.

"Generating test results in the absence of certified labs and surface water standards does not provide POTWs, the Department, or the public with meaningful information," the Municipal Water Coalition said. "The most meaningful steps POTW's can take at this time are to work with the DNR and dischargers to reduce sources of PFOA and PFOS."