Regulator roundup 18

Regulator roundup

Regulator roundup 18

Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are stable chemical compounds with multiple industrial uses, including as components in firefighting foams, nonstick cookware, food packaging, insecticides, and waterproof and fire-resistant fabrics. However, the stability that makes PFAS so useful also prevents them from breaking down readily. Thus, they can accumulate in the environment, and in the bodies of people and animals exposed to them.

PFAS National Environmental Management Plan released for consultation

Environment protection authorities (EPAs) are developing a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan that aims to provide governments with a consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental regulation of PFAS-contaminated materials and sites.

A draft version of the plan has been released for public consultation by EPA Victoria, which is leading development of the plan. Also involved is the National Chemicals Working Group of the Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand (HEPA) in consultation with relevant Australian Government, state and territory agencies.

The plan:

  • seeks to build a nationally collaborative approach and national consistency, allowing actions to be implemented in a way that becomes ‘business as usual’
  • will be designed to respond and adapt to emerging research and knowledge
  • will allow implementation through individual jurisdictional mechanisms
  • aims to be a reference on the state of knowledge of the environmental regulation of PFAS

As a how-to guide for the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and waste management, the plan seeks to inform actions by EPAs.

The recently released consultation draft provides some background on the state of knowledge of environmental regulation of PFAS and seeks feedback on experiences and views. The deadline for submissions is 25 September 2017.

PFOS and PFOA to be banned in South Australia

Earlier this year, the South Australian Government announced its intention to ban the future use in South Australia of potentially hazardous firefighting foams containing the PFAS perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or any other chemicals that degrade to PFOS or PFOA.

The move would see South Australia join Queensland – which in July 2016 introduced a policy to ban the use of the same class of firefighting foams – as one of the first 2 states to implement such a ban.

Although the use of firefighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA has been largely phased out in South Australia, some stockpiles of these foams still exist. The Metropolitan Fire Service has stopped using firefighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA, and has replaced them with alternatives that are not considered to be as potentially harmful to waterways and groundwater.

The South Australian Government will require any existing stocks of foams containing PFOS or PFOA, or chemicals that degrade to PFOS or PFOA, be withdrawn from use.

Earlier this year, South Australia EPA invited public comment on a consultation document outlining the proposed ban. The EPA has since been leading public and industry consultation to determine the best approach to implementation. Topics covered at consultation sessions have included cost and effectiveness of alternative foams, implementation costs for industry, safety issues, and the lack of viable disposal pathways.

The EPA will release a report on the submissions and responses in the coming months.

Published September 2017 Issue 18