“Forever Chemical” Disposal Becoming Eco-Nightmare

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Thursday, January 27, 2022
Monica Mercola

“Forever Chemical” Disposal Becoming Eco-Nightmare

EPA Data Depict Vast Uncontrolled and Spreading Web of PFAS Waste


Washington, DC —New data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency underscores the herculean task of controlling pollution from toxic “forever chemicals”, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). One major restraint in corralling contamination from polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is that most all of these 12,000 artificial chemical compounds remain unregulated.

Human exposure to PFAS is associated with cancer, birth defects, developmental damage to infants, and impaired functioning of the liver, kidneys, and immune system.

The EPA data obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act has information about 6,545 shipments of almost 14 million kilograms of waste contaminated with PFAS between July 2018 and August 2021. EPA gleaned these data from hazardous waste e-manifests and state waste code searches. However, since PFAS is not regulated as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA), these data were submitted voluntarily and may represent only a small fraction of total PFAS waste.

More disturbing is data showing that PFAS disposal takes place through a mix of incineration, landfilling, mixing with other fuels, discharging it into wastewater treatment systems, and injecting it underground. Since PFAS does not readily break down in the environment, the ultimate disposition of these chemicals through these methods remains largely unknown.

“These data show that we are steadily poisoning ourselves, our waters, and our food chain with extremely persistent toxic chemicals,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA attorney, noting that PEER formally petitioned EPA to regulate PFAS as a hazardous waste under RCRA nearly three years ago. “It is imperative that we act now to ensure all generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of PFAS is safely managed.”

The EPA data indicate that –

    • The “Management Method Description” in over half the shipments was listed as “storage, bulking and/or off-site transfer”, a category for which there is no further information on the final disposition of the PFAS waste;
    • Many entries show that waste containing PFAS was reclaimed for reuse, such as fuel blending, again with no information where the reused PFAS ultimately ended up; and
    • Because it is unregulated, much of the waste containing PFAS is either incinerated, which spews the PFAS into the air, or landfilled, which leaches it into groundwater or adjacent surface waters.

Facilities in Washington State generated and received the largest number of shipments of waste containing PFAS over the three-year period. Facilities in just five states (Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and California) received more than 10 million kilograms of waste, more than three-quarters of all the waste identified in the EPA data.

Back in 2019, EPA promised as part of a much-ballyhooed “PFAS Action Plan” to develop an interactive map showing sources and concentrations of PFAS in the environment. It has yet to do so, but using EPA’s data, PEER created such a map.

“Even today, EPA lacks a concrete plan for requiring desperately needed cradle-to-grave management of PFAS contaminated waste,” added Whitehouse. “If EPA does not act imminently, its own data suggest that it may be coming too late.”


See the PEER PFAS disposal map

Read a summary of the EPA data (a selection of the data can be downloaded from the map)

View PEER’s unanswered petition to regulate PFAS under RCRA

Look at EPA’s latest but inadequate PFAS “Strategic Roadmap”

Examine data on PFAS manufacture, importation, shipment, and storage

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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