What causes PFAS contamination?

The PFAS family of “forever chemicals” are under constant investigation as regulators and environmental professionals alike work to better understand these chemicals and their impacts on the environment. While it is important to understand the fate and transport of these compounds, it is also important to understand their origin. The chemistry of PFAS was discovered in the late 1930’s and by the 1950’s PFAS were prevalent in many consumer products.

One significant source of PFAS in the environment is major manufacturing. PFAS have unique chemical and physical properties, allowing them to act as oil, water, soil, and stain repellants, increase chemical and thermal stability and reduce friction between surfaces. Thanks to these properties, PFAS were used in many industries, including medical, automotive, construction, aviation, aerospace, electronics, and consumer goods manufacturing.

Another major source of PFAS in the environment is the manufacturing and application of Class B fluorinated firefighting foams.  The most widely known and used Class B foam is aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). AFFF is primarily used as a fast and efficient way to extinguish two-dimensional liquid hydrocarbon fires. The use of PFASs in foam gives these mixtures a low surface tension and ability to spread; this makes it particularly effective against flammable liquid fires when mixed with water.

AFFF enters the environment in multiple ways: through fire or catastrophic events, system discharge or false activation, firefighter training, and system testing. In areas where PFASs are not manufactured, PFAS groundwater contamination is typically traced back to a military fire or crash training sites and airports where AFFFs have been consistently used. The Department of Defense (DOD) is currently in the process of testing for PFAS contamination in 664 locations where the military has conducted fire or crash training.

How do we test for PFAS?

Eagle Synergistic has developed PFAS-specific sampling guidelines for our Hydraulic Profiling Tool-Groundwater Sampler (HPT-GWS) per the EPA guidelines. The HPT-GWS also allows for the collection of hydrogeological data in real-time, enabling Eagle Synergistic to identify and define potential migratory pathways and confining intervals throughout groundwater sample collection.

Using our upgraded HPT-GWS tooling, it is possible to identify potential migratory pathways and confining intervals in real time as the tool is advanced through the subsurface, while maintaining the ability to collect discrete groundwater samples at any time.

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