Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. Over the past several years, PFAS have generated headlines across the country, largely due to drinking water contamination from PFAS on and around at least 37 military bases in 19 states. PFAS are a major component in aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) that were used extensively at these military bases for over 40 years. PFAS compounds were also used in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications and processes like electroplating, material coating, lubrication, and vapor suppression. Because of their heat, water, and oil resistance, they were also used in cookware, food storage and packaging products, stain repellent products, and even cosmetics.
The chemical characteristics of these compounds make them highly soluble in groundwater and persistent in the environment, as they do not hydrolyze, photolyze, or biodegrade. As a result, PFAS can migrate long distances through groundwater, and they have been documented in contaminant plumes extending over one mile from the source area.
Environmental release mechanisms have been documented to include direct discharge to the ground from extinguishing fires or in fire safety training areas, discharge of wastewater to soils or drainage lines, land application of contaminated sludges, and dispersion from industrial air or vapor emissions. Once discharged to the surface soils, the soluble compounds migrate down to the groundwater with infiltrating precipitation, and disperse from there.
PFAS soil and groundwater contamination have been documented at:
- Military bases and airports
- Fire safety training areas
- Various industrial/manufacturing properties
- Petroleum refineries
- Active plating facilities
- Historic landfill sites
- Farms where sewage sludge has been applied as fertilizer.
Brickhouse Environmental’s scientists have extensive experience designing and implementing water sampling plans and hydrogelogic studies to confirm whether PFAS are present in groundwater, identify their possible sources, and assess their migration pathways.
Some of Brickhouse’s relevant PFAS projects include:
- PFAS Groundwater Sampling, Warminster, PA
- PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane Sampling, Binghamton, NY
- Regional PFAS Aquifer Studies, Philadelphia, PA
- PFAS Sampling, Former Cosmetics Manufacturer, Philadelphia, PA
- PFAS Due Diligence Sampling, Chester County, PA
- PFAS Research Studies and Litigation Support, Confidential Client
As a leader in environmental contaminant delineations and risk assessment, Brickhouse Environmental closely monitors the evolving science and regulatory policies surrounding PFAS, and we work to stay at the forefront of this complex and rapidly evolving landscape.
PFAS Site Characterization and Remedial Design, Philadelphia, PA
PFAS compounds were detected in groundwater at a former industrial facility during a due diligence environmental investigation. A hydrogeologic evaluation was conducted to identify if the detected concentrations were a result of regional background conditions, a specific release upgradient of the site, or a release on the site. Brickhouse’s specialized operating procedures for PFAS sampling and a QA/QC program were utilized to ensure that lab results were not negatively influenced by sampling and/or laboratory equipment or procedures. Brickhouse continues to work with site ownership, Buyers, and the PADEP to gain relief of cleanup liability for the PFAS groundwater impacts through the State’s Land Recycling (Act 2) Program.
PFAS Source and Migration Studies, Coastal Plain & Fractured Rock Aquifers
Brickhouse has conducted several studies to evaluate potential sources of PFAS impacts in multi-layered coastal plain aquifer systems as well as fractured rock systems. Potential source areas were identified using multiple lines of evidence, including: review of historic resources, assembly of AFFF usage timelines, forensic chemical composition and ratio evaluations, and assessment of groundwater flow models. We have also worked with labs that use branched isomer separation methods to help identify and differentiate between different PFAS sources.
Emerging Contaminants – PFOS and PFOA Sampling, Warminster, PA
In addition to a chlorinated solvent plume from the nearby Naval Air Development Center (NADC), PFAS impacts were confirmed to be present in groundwater on our client’s property at concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The source of the PFAS were fire-fighting foams that had been used during exercises at the air base for many years and had seeped into the groundwater.
To determine the extent of existing groundwater impacts beneath the Site, Brickhouse Environmental collected groundwater samples from five clustered wells, requiring diffent specialized equipment for different depths of sample collection . The wells were designed and installed to monitor multiple depths within the multi-aquifer system. Monitoring well sampling methods were conducted in alignment with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methods.
PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane Sampling, Binghamton, NY
Due to the detection of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a number of drinking water supplies across New York State, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) initiated a Statewide evaluation of remediation sites to better understand the extent that PFAS and 1,4-dioxane are present in groundwater across the State.
Brickhouse Environmental was contracted to develop and implement a detailed sampling and analysis work plan to comply with the NYSDEC-mandated sampling. Specialized sampling equipment and procedures were required throughout the sampling due to the ubiquitous presence of PFAS in many types of clothing and manufactured products (especially Teflon, which has been the material of choice in water sampling equipment for years). Also, specialized decontamination procedures, sample handling procedures, and analytical processes were implemented during the collection and analysis of samples for PFAS compounds, to prevent cross-contamination and false positive results.
Brickhouse successfully completed this assignment, confirming that PFAS were not present in groundwater at concentrations exceeding the USEPA interim standards.
PFAS Groundwater Sampling, Warminster, PA
In addition to a chlorinated solvent plume from the nearby Naval Air Development Center (NADC), groundwater impacts from Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) were confirmed to be present at sample locations on our client’s property at concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The source of the PFAS were fire-fighting foams that had been used during exercises at the air base for many years and had seeped into the groundwater.
To determine the extent of existing groundwater impacts beneath the Site, Brickhouse Environmental collected groundwater samples from five clustered wells that had been installed by the NADC. The wells were designed and installed to monitor multiple depths within the multi-aquifer system.
The samples were successfully analyzed for PFOA, PFAS, PFHxS, and related compounds using cutting-edge analytical methods and certified PFAS-free equipment. All purging and sampling procedures, and sample handling and analytical procedures at the lab were conducted using strict QA/QC protocols to eliminate potential cross-contamination and/or false positives.