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New York

Applied Innovations for Regulatory Change

In 2016, New York State designated perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) as regulated hazardous substances, becoming the first state in the country to enact PFAS rules and regulations with enforceable storage and environmental release limits. A year later, the state appropriated $2.5 billion for water and wastewater improvements with earmarks to support PFAS sampling and analysis at 1,750 sites scheduled for cleanup under the State Superfund Program (SSF).

As an on-call consultant to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), TRC is performing site investigations for 23 SSF program sites, including landfills, fire training centers and commercial/industrial brownfields. Since the 1950s, thousands of PFAS substances have been used in manufacturing a wide variety of water-, heat-, and oil-resistant consumer goods and chemicals. PFOA and PFOS are two of the more common chemicals that were used in everything from firefighting foams to nonstick cookware and Scotchgard™-treated materials. Emerging data suggest that both chemicals may be carcinogenic.

TRC is using unique sampling protocols to gather data at the SSF sites. Similar to the way other contaminants are screened during site investigations, the protocols involve collecting and analyzing a representative number of samples to characterize the level of impact. However, PFAS procedures are more complex, requiring specialized knowledge and experience — improper handling of soil and water samples could lead to inaccurate and nonrepresentative results.

PFAS regulation is a new, highly complex challenge for the NYSDEC. TRC is providing the expertise needed to collect reliable data and provide accurate interpretations for the agency during these early efforts to enforce the new law.

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