PFAS Contamination in Groundwater & Landfills Becomes Regulatory Focus
PFAs in Landfill

Federal and state agencies are increasingly evaluating legacy and operating landfills as potential sources of per-and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) in groundwater.  Because landfills are the main destination for many consumer products containing PFAS, scientists and regulating bodies are taking a deeper look at leachate concentrations and mobility in groundwater studies. As PFAS are identified in more groundwater samples near landfill sites across the country, attention from regulatory agencies may increase.

Several states launch studies
Last year, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy began an extensive wastewater, drinking water, surface water, and groundwater testing program for PFAS. Results were published in August 2019 with data showing elevated PFAS concentrations near two landfills in Flint, Michigan and one in Parchment, Michigan, where the drinking water system was shut down due to PFAS contamination.  Concentrations as high as 731 parts per trillion (ppt) were found in groundwater near the landfill.  Since results were published, Michigan has announced a $1.4 million collection and disposal program for PFAS-containing firefighting foam and has scheduled a public meeting.

Other states, such as California, are also turning their attention toward groundwater testing.  In Phase 1 of a multi-phase investigation approach, the State Water Resources Control Board of California plans to issue testing orders to 252 landfills that may have received PFAS materials, as well as 353 drinking water wells within a one mile radius of those landfills.

Remind me why PFAS contamination is a big deal…
PFAS have been referred to as “forever chemicals” because their complex mixture and unique chemistry make them persistent in the environment. PFAS compounds are also linked to toxicity, bioaccumulation, and long half lives in humans.

Other challenges with PFAS include:

  • Widespread use in firefighting foams and consumer products
  • Regulatory uncertainty
  • Uncertain/developing toxicology
  • Analysis is highly specialized and inconsistent
  • Remediation options exist, but are currently limited

Recent research confirms PFAS are commonly detected in landfill leachate.  The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) summarized additional information on PFAS release and exposure pathways associated with landfills in this fact sheet

Trihydro’s team of landfill and emerging contaminant experts are involved in ITRC research teams and other research projects tasked with evaluating and advancing PFAS management solutions. Our specialists are monitoring PFAS closely and will continue to provide updates as developments occur. 

Interested in learning more?
On October 1-2, 2019, Trihydro will be at the 2019 Colorado Rocky Mountain Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Annual Conference.  Stop by our booth to meet Melissa Hinman, Solid Waste Engineer, and discuss your solid waste challenges.


Melissa Hinman, PE, Solid Waste Engineer 
(303) 974-4928 (office)
(303) 549- 6574 (mobile)

Mitch Olson, PhD, PE, Emerging Contaminants Specialist
(970) 492-6022

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