TRC’s Center of Research and Expertise (CORE) is a multidisciplinary team of experts whose mission is to promote technical excellence, work at the forefront of emerging challenges and solutions, and contribute to the technical advancement of our professional, client, and academic communities.
Our national PFAS Team, cultivated through the CORE, offers site characterization, forensic and risk assessment, compliance strategies, and treatment solutions for PFAS and other emerging contaminants. We work across geographies and disciplines to understand, research, and advance the body of technical knowledge to strategically manage emerging issues around these contaminants.
What are PFAS?
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, are “… a diverse group of compounds resistant to heat, water, and oil.” They comprise a complex family of over 3,000 manmade fluorinated organic chemicals.
Since the 1950s, their widespread usage was found within the aerospace, automotive, building and construction, chemical processing, metal plating, semiconductor, and textile industries. PFAS have been commonly used in consumer products such as carpets, apparel, food paper wrappings, and firefighting foams.
Why PFAS are Emerging Contaminants
PFAS have been detected at low levels within remote and urban environments, in drinking water, in sediment, soil, surface water, and groundwater, and in blood samples of the general U.S. population and abroad.
Specific PFAS have been linked to adverse health effects in animal studies and in people. PFAS are persistent and highly resistant to degradation in the environment. The combination of widespread presence, potential health effects even at low concentrations, and persistence, has brought these contaminants to the forefront.
Currently, there are limited state-specific regulations and no federal drinking water or cleanup standards in place. It was only in 2012 that the USEPA first required certain public drinking water suppliers to test for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) under its Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3). Monitoring requirements and standards have been changing regularly, and understanding current conditions and requirements is imperative prior to and throughout PFAS work.
The Challenges Behind Addressing PFAS
The full scope of PFAS issues remains to be identified. Standards for soil and water are being implemented by individual states, yet PFAS analytical, remediation, and treatment methods are in their infancy. Risk assessments and coherent exposure scenarios are not yet well researched or characterized, with unresolved inconsistencies in risk-related studies.
PFAS surfactant properties that result in partitioning at the air-water interface create sampling challenges for remediation and monitoring, as well as for measurement of key fate and transport properties (e.g., solubility, sorption, and organic carbon-water partition coefficients).
What makes PFAS more challenging than other contaminants are their omnipresence, persistence, mobility, low reporting limits, low and evolving regulatory criteria, the role of precursors, bioaccumulation potential, and their impact on watersheds.
Our Solutions and Expertise
For decades, TRC has offered innovative engineering and environmental solutions to a wide range of private and public clients in various sectors.
Thanks in part to the development of our CORE strategic program, we’ve been able to deliver solutions to complex problems that are efficient, sustainable, cost-effective, and aligned with our clients’ business objectives. Our ability to “think like an owner” when crafting site management strategies inspires us to innovate and focus on the end goal, and understand the phases that go into mapping a project’s full lifecycle. We apply this same approach to PFAS’ unique challenges for our clients.
Our CORE members belong to the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) and actively participated on the ITRC PFAS team in the development of various PFAS fact sheets and a Technical Guidance document. In 2017, we won the ITRC Industry Member of the Year award for the work and leadership we provided on the ITRC PFAS team. Our experts have also worked with the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) to create the Groundwater and PFAS: State of Knowledge and Practice guide.
Our goal is to strategically guide our clients through the challenging process of addressing PFAS contamination and emissions, especially under the prevailing regulatory and technical uncertainties. We provide a range of services to clients in the public, manufacturing, transportation, petrochemical, and other sectors, helping them identify, plan, and manage challenges through all steps of the process.