- New Hampshire's regulations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) require a more thorough cost-benefit analysis before implementation, according to a new ruling. The Union-Leader reports Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard B. McNamara granted a preliminary injunction against required testing for PFAS in landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and water systems on Nov. 26.
- Several companies, including PFAS manufacturer 3M, argued the rules constituted an unfunded mandate in a September lawsuit, which McNamara said likely did not apply. "Plaintiffs have not established that they will likely succeed [in their arguments]," he wrote, but nonetheless determined that the state Department of Environmental Services (DES) "has not conducted an adequate cost-benefit analysis" to regulate PFAS.
- The regulations, which went into effect two months ago, were the first in the United States to require routine landfill testing. The injunction does not take effect until Dec. 31 and either party can appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. DES did not respond to a request for comment from Waste Dive by publishing time.
Panic over PFAS contamination is growing nationwide, with outsized implications for landfills. The non-stick chemicals are found in everything from firefighting foam to dental floss, and testing has revealed they are present in the blood of around 99% of humans. Several types of PFAS have been definitively linked to cancer, and the chemicals PFOS and PFOA — two longchain PFAS chemicals — are no longer manufactured in the United States as a result.
But products containing PFOS and PFOA still make their way into the country from overseas, along with many other types of PFAS. Those items can eventually wind up in landfills, where they are contained, unless they escape through either leachate or into the air.
In early November, 250,000 gallons of leachate from Waste Management's Turnkey Landfill in New Hampshire potentially contaminated Maine's Kennebec River with PFAS following discharge. The Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility in Massachusetts reportedly terminated its contract with the Turnkey site over concerns about PFAS. Waste Management argued that the U.S. EPA has not set standards for PFAS in leachate and the current non-binding advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of both PFOS and PFOA in drinking water does not apply to waste. According to 2018 tests, the leachate at the Turnkey site exceeded the EPA advisory for some types of PFAS by more than 100 times.
But the EPA is under pressure by health experts, environmental groups, and affected communities to set a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) for PFAS more broadly. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said the agency will look into regulating the chemicals, but many states aren't waiting. Along with New Hampshire, states including New York, Vermont, Michigan, and Massachusetts are all lowering the amount of PFAS allowed in water or considering doing so.
New Hampshire's new Ambient Groundwater Quality Standards (AGQS) sets MCLs at 12 ppt for PFOA and 15 ppt for PFOS, in addition to regulating other chemicals. DES is currently investigating a number of sites in the state over AGQS violations, including at least six landfills. Per state testing, all of those have elevated PFAS in their groundwater.
The Nov. 26 ruling highlights the resistance the state is facing over those regulations. On Sept. 30, the day New Hampshire lowered its allowable PFAS limit, the Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District, composter Resource Management, and a local farmer joined 3M in suing DES. It is unclear if the state will appeal the ruling, but pressure to regulate PFAS is unlikely to decrease.
PFAS have also been a recent source of contention in neighboring Vermont, where high amounts were found in the leachate of the state's only active landfill. A local activist group recently settled with Casella Waste Systems after a year and a half of opposition to a planned expansion. One of the terms of agreement is accounting for PFAS testing at the site in the future. Waste carpet and textiles are said to be the leading sources of PFAS going into that landfill.