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Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a large and complex class of anthropogenic compounds often referred to collectively as PFAS. They are also sometimes referred to as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFAS have been widely used in numerous industrial and residential applications since the 1950’s. Their stability and unique chemical properties produce waterproof, stain resistant, and nonstick qualities in products. They are found in some firefighting foams and industrial processes, and a wide range of consumer products such as carpet treatments, non-stick cookware, water-resistant fabrics, and food packaging materials

In Alaska, spills or releases of PFAS into the environment are primarily associated with the use of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) during firefighting or fire training activities.  PFAS compounds of most concern where AFFF has been used are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).  These two compounds are the most studied and both the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued levels for comparison.  In 2016, ADEC promulgated soil and groundwater cleanup levels and EPA issued their lifetime health advisory level for drinking water.

Because PFOA and PFOS are persistent in the environment and soluble in water, large plumes of groundwater contamination can form where these compounds have spilled.  When spills occur in areas served by private or public drinking water wells, the well water is susceptible to contamination. 

When contamination from PFAS is found in the environment, the responsible party must evaluate the extent of the contamination in the soil and groundwater, and begin cleanup with ADEC’s oversight.   The responsible party is typically the entity that caused the release or the landowner where the release occurred. 

Contacts

  • DEC, Contaminated Sites Program, Division of Spill Prevention and Response
  • Eric Breitenberger
  • Environmental Program Manager
  • 907-451-2158
  • DEC, Public Water Systems
  • DEC, Drinking Water Program, Division of Environmental Health
  • Cindy Christian
  • Program Manager, Field Operations
  • 907-451-2138
  • DHSS, Health Related Information
  • DHSS Division of Public Health
  • Sandrine Deglin
  • Environmental Public Health Program Manager
  • 907-269-8028