Identifying and Addressing Sources of PFAS Contamination
Minimizing Future Releases of PFAS to the Environment
To address additional sources of significant PFAS contamination, the plan called for Connecticut agencies to identify operations, processes, and consumer products that may be sources of PFAS contamination; establish standards and discharge limits for PFAS in air and water; and to evaluate the levels of PFAS that reach wastewater treatment plants, biosolids, and compost. DEEP, in partnership with other State agencies, has made significant progress towards these goals.
Identification of PFAS Operations and Processes
PFAS in Firefighting Foams
Investigating PFAS in Consumer Products
Limiting PFAS in Food Packaging
Evaluation of PFAS in Wastewater Discharge
PFAS Guidance for Biosolids Application
Establishment of Air Emission Standards
The universe of industrial operations and processes that may potentially release PFAS to the environment is an active area of research. DEEP is working closely with EPA and other state agencies to establish a common list of industries that use or generate PFAS during routine business operations. To do so, efforts are focused on evaluation of the PFAS potential of each North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. (When registering with the federal government, a business self-selects the NAICS code that best represents their primary activity type.) Research has identified certain business activities, such as electroplaters and metal finishers, as more likely to be potential users or generators of PFAS. Establishing a list of standard industry codes that are most likely to use PFAS chemicals in their processes (either currently or historically), will assist the Agency with identifying those facilities most likely to pose a PFAS-risk to nearby environmental resources and the public. It's important to note that current or historic use of PFAS in a given industry type, does not necessarily mean that PFAS has been released to the environment by a particular facility within that industry type. (A property may be an administrative office building of a company that performs such industrial activities elsewhere, for example.) DEEP will continue to update the public on its progress to finalize the PFAS industry code screening list.
- PFAS Introduction and Sources (DEEP Webpage)
- ITRC PFAS Uses
- Historical and current usage of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): A literature review (Gaines 2022)
- An overview of the uses of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) (Glüge et al. 2020)
PFAS-containing aqueous film forming foams, also referred to as "AFFF" or "AF3", were historically used to respond to Class B flammable liquid and petroleum hydrocarbon fires. These fluorinated foams are highly effective at extinguishing fires, but unfortunately contain large amounts of PFAS and can result in significant environmental contamination. Areas of past AFFF release (e.g., former fire fighting training areas) are often characterized by extremely high levels of PFAS in soil and groundwater.
Therefore, on July 13, 2021, the State of Connecticut enacted Public Act No. 21-191: An Act Concerning the Use of Perfluoroalkyl or Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Class B Firefighting Foam. The Act provided a phased-approach to eliminating the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams in Connecticut. The Act also called for DEEP and the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) to collaborate with municipalities to conduct a 'take back' program of fluorinated firefighting foams. In 2021 and 2022, the program collected more than 35,000 gallons of PFAS-containing firefighting foam concentrate from over 250 fire departments throughout Connecticut. The concentrate has been properly disposed of, eliminating the risk that these PFAS-containing materials might be released to the environment. As part of the take-back program, DEEP and DESPP worked together to identify fluorine-free foam replacements and to evaluate decontamination methods for foam-containing fire apparatus. Visit the PFAS in Class B Firefighting Foam webpage to learn more.
Consumer products that contain PFAS are an important source of individual PFAS exposure. In addition, the use and eventual disposal of such products contributes to PFAS contamination of the environment. Since PFAS do not completely break down, once disposed, wastewater discharge and landfill leachate commonly contain PFAS, in part, because of the presence of PFAS in consumer products.
In 2021, DEEP hired Weston & Sampson Engineers, Inc. to conduct research and summarize the presence and use of PFAS in consumer products. The information reviewed was summarized in an Excel database (see below). Findings of the research indicated that waterproof textiles, floor and carpet protection and shampoos, baking and cookware, food packaging, fire fighting foams, automobile waxes and washes, biosolids, building materials, and metal plating operations are of greatest concern (among those categories researched) due to their frequency of use and disposal.
- Weston & Sampson Summary of Research into PFAS Use in Consumer Products
- PFAS Use in Consumer Products Literature Database (Last Revised June 16, 2021)
In 2021, Public Act 21-191 was enacted, updating Connecticut’s Toxics in Packaging Law (Section 22a-255g-m of the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) ) to restrict intentionally added PFAS in food packaging effective January 1, 2024. Questions related to this law and its PFAS provisions may be directed to Tom Metzner at 860-424-3242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about efforts to procure PFAS-free food service ware, visit the Minimizing Environmental Exposure to PFAS page.
Because of the widespread use of PFAS in household, commercial, and industrial products, PFAS are being detected in wastewater conveyed to wastewater treatment plants (also known as water pollution control facilities). PFAS are not destroyed or removed at these plants and can be found in both the liquids and solids generated during the treatment process. In Connecticut, most biosolids, or sewage sludge, generated at wastewater treatment plants are incinerated. Sludge incineration does not currently destroy PFAS compounds.
DEEP hired a consultant to complete two rounds of PFAS sampling at thirty-five (about 40%) of the state’s publicly owned wastewater treatment plants (or publicly owned treatment works, POTWs) in 2021 and 2022. DEEP collected wastewater entering and discharging from each facility (i.e., influent and effluent), as well as sludge samples. DEEP also collected samples of “scrubber water” (water used to treat smokestack emissions) from four of the five facilities that maintain sewage sludge incinerators. At ten sites, surface water upstream and downstream of the facility was collected as well as fish tissue samples.
At this time, PFAS monitoring is not required of wastewater treatment facilities. However, once EPA has approved draft analytical method 1633, DEEP will implement a phased approach to start adding PFAS monitoring requirements to wastewater treatment plant NPDES permits.
In Connecticut, most biosolids, or sewage sludge, generated at wastewater treatment plants are incinerated. In other states, the nutrient-rich biosolids are reused in agriculture as soil amendments or are made into pelletized fertilizers that are sold commercially. Unfortunately, some of these products have been found to contain PFAS.
The CT Department of Agriculture and DEEP recommend that farmers do not apply pelletized biosolid fertilizer to agricultural fields without first requesting PFAS test results from their suppliers. If the biosolid product contains a combined PFAS concentration of 1.4 micrograms per kilogram (ug/kg or parts per billion) or more for five specific PFAS chemicals (PFOA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFNA, and PFHpA) it is recommended that you do not apply that product in bulk to your fields. Higher PFAS concentrations have the potential to leach to groundwater and contaminate drinking water and irrigation supplies. PFAS has also been shown to be taken up by crops and accumulate in livestock. Research is ongoing.
DEEP Air Bureau staff are closely monitoring the work of USEPA’s Office of Air and Radiation under the PFAS Strategic Road Map to develop the technical foundation to address PFAS air emissions. Our specific interest is in the creation of accepted methods to accurately quantify PFAS air emissions. These are necessary to understand the fate and transport of PFAS and inform adequately protective federal and state PFAS air emissions standards. Additionally, Air Bureau Staff participate in regional and national workgroups to share learning and advocate for technical resources specific to PFAS air emission quantification and control techniques.
Questions or comments regarding the environmental impacts of PFAS in Connecticut should be sent to DEEP.PFAS@ct.gov.
Content last updated October 7, 2023.