This page will be updated periodically with short summaries of general information, specific water-sector technical information, WEF events information, and links to trusted sites for the most up-to-date official information. For questions or comments on this page or PFAS in general, contact Patrick Dube, Senior Program Manager.
What are PFAS?
Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)1 are a group of manmade fluorinated compounds which are used for a variety of applications by both industry and residential households. PFAS have been in commercial use since the 1940’s and are abundant in today’s society. These chemicals are widely in use because of their exceptional resistance to heat, water, and oil.
PFAS are found commonly in every American household, and in products as diverse as non-stick cookware, stain resistant furniture and carpets, wrinkle free and water repellant clothing, cosmetics, lubricants, paint, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, and many other everyday products.
1. PFAS is the broader class of chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, and many others.
Why are we concerned?
These chemicals persist in the environment — meaning they are slow to breakdown and, so, remain chemically active. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. These concerns require a collaborative and scientifically driven response by legislators, regulators, and drinking water, wastewater, and solid waste agencies to manage PFAS holistically.
Drinking water treatment systems, water resource recovery facilities, and municipal solid waste landfills are not “producers” or users of PFAS, and none of these essential public service providers utilize or profit from PFAS chemicals. However, we believe in our collective mission to ensure safe drinking water, wastewater treatment, and sanitation services. To that end, we support actions and regulations intended to ensure delivery of those services as long as they are based on credible science and developed after due deliberation.
Note: The information posted here is a summary of current knowledge about these emerging chemicals. The state of knowledge will evolve as additional investigation and research is conducted, so continuous review of reputable sources and websites is advised.
WEF has a variety of PFAS resources available to members and non-members.
PFAS Fundamentals Compilation
This resource compiles more than 10 PFAS-related publications and guides.
WEF, together with the American Public Works Association, California Association of Sanitation Agencies, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, National Waste & Recycling Association, Solid Waste Association of North America and the Water Reuse Association, developed this summary factsheet of PFAS substances.
WEF PFAS Position Statement
The Water Environment Federation has developed a series of clean water position statements to guide the critical work WEF provides in clean water policy. These position statements provide the public and clean water professionals with an understanding of how WEF approaches the topics and issues regarding the availability of clean water. Existing position statements are regularly reviewed and updated through the leadership of the Government Affairs Committee, and new position statements are developed as new topics arise in the clean water sector.
Past WEF Webcasts
WEF regularly hosts interactive webcasts on water-related topics and to date has hosted the four different PFAS specific webcasts listed below. These archived webcasts can be view via the WEF Learning Center.
- PFAS and Biosolids Update - held December 9, 2021
- PFAS in Water Reuse - held May 27, 2021
- PFAS in Municipal Biosolids - held April 1, 2021
- Detection and Source Identification Approaches of PFAS - held April 29, 2021
- PFAS, Wastewater, and Biosolids Management - held August 1, 2018 (WEF membership required)
Researchers from the University of Arizona are seeking partners for a national research project addressing whether the land application of biosolids results in higher human exposure to PFAS. This project will investigate research plots around the country and address the impact biosolids have on groundwater as well as plant uptake in crops. For more information, please find a presentation from the current project partners here.
PFAS molecules are made up of a chain of linked carbon and fluorine atoms. Thanks to recent trials, EPA researchers may have found an effective method of breaking this chain link of carbon and fluorine to destroy PFAS—called Supercritical Water Oxidation (SCWO).
Beginning December 16th, the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) will convene for the following: to review EPA’s Proposed Approaches to the Derivation of a Draft Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in Drinking Water; Proposed Approaches to the Derivation of a Draft Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOS) in Drinking Water; EPA’s Analysis of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction as a Result of Reduced PFOA and PFOS Exposure in Drinking Water; and EPA’s Draft Framework for Estimating Noncancer Health Risks Associated with Mixtures of PFAS. This meeting (and the others taking place in January) will be open to the public.
On October 18, 2021, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap—laying out a whole-of-agency approach to addressing PFAS.
The roadmap sets timelines by which EPA plans to take specific actions and commits to bolder new policies to safeguard public health, protect the environment, and hold polluters accountable. The actions described in the PFAS Roadmap each represent important and meaningful steps to safeguard communities from PFAS contamination. Cumulatively, these actions will build upon one another and lead to more enduring and protective solutions.
In October 2021, EPA announced important steps toward evaluating the existing data for four PFAS under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and strengthening the ability to clean up PFAS contamination across the country through the RCRA corrective action process.
In October 2021, the Agency published a final human health toxicity assessment for GenX chemicals that was authored by expert career scientists and underwent rigorous external peer review and public comment.
In October 2021, EPA announced that the Agency is developing a national PFAS testing strategy that intends to use its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) authorities to require PFAS manufacturers to provide information on PFAS.
U.S. EPA Announces First Validated Laboratory Method to Test for PFAS in Wastewater, Surface Water, Groundwater, Soils
A partnership between EPA and the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program has produced draft Method 1633, a single-laboratory validated method to test for 40 PFAS compounds in wastewater, surface water, groundwater, soil, biosolids, sediment, landfill leachate, and fish tissue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Preliminary Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 15 (Preliminary Plan 15), which identifies opportunities to better protect public health and the environment through regulation of wastewater pollution. Preliminary Plan 15 announces that EPA will undertake three new rulemakings to reduce contaminants including PFAS and nutrients—from key industries.
This issue paper demonstrates that food waste streams are a source of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in composts and digestates, with PFAS detected in food waste, food contact materials, and composts produced from food waste. Additional research is needed to inform decisions and policies applicable to food waste collection, management, processing, and consequently, the reduction of food waste.
This webinar shares examples of EPA ORD projects conducted in collaboration with and designed by States and Tribes to use ORD’s expertise to identify and improve the understanding of what PFAS are present within various media in local areas of concern. Projects range from environmental sampling around manufacturing facilities to evaluation of the effectiveness of well and wastewater treatment.
A number of agencies, associations and groups have developed valuable, reviewed PFAS related information. The links below point to reputable and reliable sources of information that are updated frequently with technical guidance and the latest research.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Michigan PFAS Action Response Team
- Interstate Technology Regulatory Council
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- North East Biosolids and Residuals Association
WEF continues to seek out and share technical information surrounding PFAS.
- EPA ORD Tools and Resources Webinar: Chemical Transformation Simulator: To Predict PFAS Metabolites and Environmental Transformation Products
- Understanding PFAS: Developing Management Practices and Treatment Options for Industry
- Membranes for Water Reuse- Past, Present, and Future: A Barrier to PFAS and Pathogens
- PFAS 101: Intro to the Forever Chemicals
- Not Forever Chemicals! We Can Get Rid of PFAS
- What A Public Works Director Needs to Know About Emerging Contaminants and PFAS
There are a number of PFAS related bills currently proposed in the 117th Congress. Please see the links below to learn more about each item.
- PFAS Action Act (R. 2467)
- Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (R. 3684)
- NDAA FY2022 (R. 4350)
- PFAS Safe Disposal Act reintroduced
- House FY 2022 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill (summary)
- House FY 2022 Defense Appropriations bill (summary)
- House FY 2022 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill (text)
The vision of the PFAS Task Force is to establish WEF as a recognized leader and trusted resource of information on PFAS for water professionals, the public and decision makers developing policy and regulations.
Objectives of the PFAS Task Force include:
- Update: Collect, review and summarize available information and research in order to be able to provide widespread, consistent, and reliable information concerning PFAS.
- Educate: Provide education and resources to enable WEF members to advocate for funding for PFAS research, appropriate regulation of PFAS, and funding for utilities to address PFAS.
- Communicate: Provide a platform for water professionals to collaborate and share information about PFAS.