The National Environmental Management Plan for PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) has been released, setting out what the regulators view as suitable practices regarding how contamination and waste from these long-lasting chemicals should be treated.
PFAS are manufactured chemicals that make products heat resistant, non-stick, water repellent, and weather and stain resistant.
Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s Executive Director Assessments, Tim Eaton, said PFAS chemicals have been used for decades in a range of products, including pesticides, stain repellents and fire-fighting foams.
“PFAS compounds have had a wide range of uses because they resist heat, chemical and biological degradation, and are very stable,” Mr Eaton said.
“There is now growing concern worldwide about the effects of PFAS on our health and on animals and plants, because of that chemical stability and the fact that they easily enter the environment, moving into soil, creeks, rivers and lakes. We know there are sites with PFAS contamination, so we are working collectively to manage them.”
In April 2017, government and environment agency staff met with national and international environmental regulation experts at a PFAS Summit in Melbourne convened by the Heads of all Australian EPAs. Regulatory experts shared the latest information about PFAS contamination, where it occurs and its possible impacts, and talked about the steps being taken to manage the chemicals. There was agreement that a collaborative, national approach to PFAS regulation is the best way forward.
The PFAS Summit led to the creation of a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan that describes PFAS compounds and their impacts, how to deal with and clean up contaminated sites, how best to treat contaminated soil and waste, and methods for safely destroying the chemicals. Prior to the development of the Plan, communities affected by PFAS and practitioners seeking to deal with contamination had no consistent guidance or direction from regulators.
“The plan is a reference document to inform practitioners and provide national consistency in the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and waste management,” Mr Eaton said.
The Heads of EPAs across Australia and New Zealand developed the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan.