Q&A from EDR’s PFAS and Due Diligence Webinar: Here’s What You Need to Know

Polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) are making headlines as more is known about the health effects of this emerging risk. PFAS is most commonly associated with the surfactants used in fire-fighting foams, but there are many other processes and product uses tied to PFAS. As with other types of property risk like asbestos and vapor, the science identifying the risk develops first and then the regulations follow. As PFAS regulations take shape across the U.S., there is a great deal of confusion and concern about how PFAS risk should be handled during property due diligence.

To address this uncertainty, we hosted a webinar on June 18th, 2019  that attracted more than 1,500 attendees. During the live event, leading national PFAS expert, Dr. Harry Behzadi of SGS shared the latest and greatest on what is known about PFAS risks, common sources, the states that are taking the lead on regulating PFAS risk and what that means for pre-acquisition property due diligence.

Due to the volume of questions that attendees submitted during the webinar, Dr. Behzadi was unable to address each one in the available timeframe. Below are his answers to a few of the most common ones that came in. A link to the complete Q&A document with answers to all of the questions submitted is provided at the bottom of this brief.

NOTE TO READERS: The answers below were provided to EDR by Dr. Behzadi unless otherwise noted.

QUESTION: Can you provide any reference books/papers on the mostly likely industrial/facility types for sources of PFAS? What about a resource listing of all of the commercial materials/trade names that are known to contain PFAS?

 “The ITRC website contains various fact sheets on PFAS.”

Which states are regulating PFAS? Has a background level been established by the States/EPA since it appears the PFAS/PFOS are very widespread?

“Many states are regulating PFAS.  New Jersey was the first state to establish an actual MCL. Refer to the Regulations, Guidance, and Advisories fact sheet along with Table 4 and 5 on the ITRC website. There is not yet a background level set by either the states or the U.S. EPA for PFAS/PFOS.”

What, if any, are the health effects/concerns are associated with PFAS in drinking water? Are the impacts considered acute or chronic?

“Among the known health effects are that PFAS exposure:

  • Increases cholesterol levels;
  • Increases risk of type II diabetes;
  • Decreases how well the body responds to vaccines;
  • Increases the risk of thyroid disease;
  • Decreases fertility in women and lowers sperm count in men;
  • Birth defects, delayed development, and newborn deaths; and
  • Can cause cancer in the liver, pancreas, and thyroid.

These impacts are considered long term or chronic.”

Q: Is PFAS identified as a hazardous substance under CERCLA? How does the current standard address this issue in terms making a determination as a Recognized Environmental Condition under ASTM E 1527? What is the ASTM committee doing to address PFAS for the next iteration of the Phase I ESA standard?

 ANSWER provided by Dianne Crocker, Analyst at EDR:

“Right now the US EPA doesn’t recognize PFAS as a hazardous substance so it’s not technically regulated under CERCLA or the AAI rule. Based on outreach to Julie Kilgore and a few members of the Task Group, I’ll point you to two things areas in the existing E 1527 standard:

  1. Some states are ahead of the feds on regulating PFAS at the moment. The Phase I standard as written allows for that if you look at Section 1.1.4 of E 1527. This includes a reference to other laws already present, and applies to PFAS or other emerging contaminants for which the States are out front.
  2. Since PFAS isn’t currently regulated under CERCLA, emerging contaminants fall under non-scope considerations which means it can be added to the scope under agreement between the EP and the user. The ASTM committee is being proactive about PFAS given the attention and the risk so the task group is considering adding a mention of emerging contaminants to section 13 of the standard which addresses non-scope Issues. Also be aware that EPs have to look at state/local regulations so depending on where you are you may need to look at PFAS.

We’re obviously in a time of significant change in terms of how we as an industry handle this risk. In this interim period, the trick right now is to make sure that the users and producers of Phase I ESAs are aligned in terms of what they’re buying and producing to make sure it’s appropriate for the given target property and situation. Expect to see more clarity on this in the next iteration of the standard in late 2020 or 2021. And also, of course, if the federal EPA eventually names PFAS or a subset of them as hazardous substances, then they would fall under AAI and E 1527.”

Q: Does EDR’s database include sites where PFAS was produced or used in the past, (i.e.., inactive sites)?

ANSWER provided by EDR’s Crocker:  

“EDR is closely watching this issue and will continue to educate the property due diligence community regarding PFAS. From a database standpoint, I’m not an expert but I reached out to a few folks here at EDR. They’ve been amassing PFAS databases for over 6 months now.  To date, EDR has 22 state PFAS databases loaded and active in our reports and are sourcing more as we speak. These databases are listings of sites that were tested for PFAS by state agencies. There are probably many more PFAS-contaminated sites that are not yet in the databases, and we will continue to track this and add records as they become available.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Complete Q&A Document organized by broad topic (e.g., Sampling, Sources of PFAS, Regulation, etc)

A Replay of the Webinar will answer questions like: 

  • Which types of site uses are most prone to PFAS risk?
  • What types of sampling can be done under Phase IIs for PFAS?
  • What regulations exist that address PFAS risk and what can we expect to take shape over the near term?
  • Why does PFAS matter for property due diligence?

Here’s what attendees had to say about Dr. Behzadi’s presentation:

“This was the clearest, most comprehensive, timeliest information I have found on the subject.”

“The speaker was highly knowledgeable and well versed on the subject.”

“Thorough and entertaining. Enjoyed it and learned a lot.”

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Dr. Harry Behzadi is currently Vice President of Business Development for SGS-EHS North America. Most recently, he was the Vice President of Operations, for TestAmerica Inc., Eastern region. Prior to that, he was VP of operations, and Corporate Technical Director for Accutest Laboratories, Inc. Since 1994, Dr. Behzadi had spearheaded the growth and expansion of Accutest Corporation in the Southeast and beyond to the West Coast. He started Southeast division in 1995 and developed the lab from a handful of employees to one of the  largest environmental laboratory in the South with staff 90+ strong. He began his career over 30 years in pharmaceutical industry and since then he has been responsible for laboratory management, analytical method development, professional training and QA/QC in both the environmental and pharmaceutical industries. He has navigated multiple laboratories through certification and NELAP accreditation process, Dept. of Defense and Various Fortune 500 companies. His expertise encompasses all aspects of the environmental testing business including technical and operations management, new method development, acquisitions, operations integration, sales and business development.