NWRIC Week in Review

PFAS contamination and its management – Masterclass

In response to managing the impacts of PFAS a National Environment Management Plan (NEPM) has been developed jointly by all jurisdictions. The Heads of EPAs agreed to the latest version in October 2019 and Environment Ministers endorsed it in 2020.

The NEMP for PFAS establishes a practical basis for nationally consistent environmental guidance and standards for managing PFAS contamination. It represents a how-to guide for the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and waste management.

PFAS are emerging contaminants which pose one of the biggest challenges for the waste and resource recovery sector while governments continue to develop their regulatory response on how to manage these chemicals which are persistent and widespread in the environment.

PFAS is an abbreviation for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. They are manufactured chemicals which have been used for more than 50 years. PFAS make products non-stick, water repellent, and fire, weather and stain resistant.

In Australia, PFAS have been used for a long time in a wide range of consumer products (e.g. carpets, clothes and paper) and industrial applications, including certain firefighting foams.

PFAS have contaminated soils, surface and ground water and are present in waste streams, including at landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, and more broadly in the environment.

According to the PFAS NEMP, the presence of PFAS in the environment does not necessarily constitute an unacceptable human health or environmental risk. Rather, risk depends on a range of factors including PFAS compounds present, PFAS leachability and concentration, degree of exposure, types of receptors exposed, land use, environmental values present, level of environmental protection, potential for bioaccumulation, and environmental media in which the contamination occurs.

To learn more about the challenges of managing PFAS and the regulatory responses of states and territories, WRIQ has partnered with law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth to host a masterclass on the current and emerging issues around PFAS including the regulatory response in Australia.

The masterclass will include:

  • An overview of PFAS chemicals and their unique characteristics
  • A summary of the developing regulatory responses in Australia and litigation in Australia and internationally
  • A recap on the evolution of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan as the first harmonised guidance to PFAS management across the country
  • An overview on issues and challenges associated with managing PFAS impacted wastes on the ground – sampling and assessment, categorisation, transport and waste tracking
  • Issues encountered by landfills in accepting PFAS impacted waste and leachate management
  • An industry snapshot about the treatment options for PFAS impacted waste

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