Navigating the Problem of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in NYS
The presence of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water poses major health challenges to New Yorkers. In January 2024, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) released a new draft for applying the guidance values (GVs) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and 1,4-dioxane (1,4-D) in State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits for Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs).
This draft guidance is titled Technical and Operational Guidance Series 1.3.14 “Publicly Owned Treatment Works Strategy for Implementing Guidance Values for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-Dioxane” (TOGS 1.3.14). NYSDEC is increasing the scope of regulation to include POTWs to monitor for any changes in PFAS and 1,4-D levels from the wastewater being discharged to the state’s water resources.
The new draft guidance in its initial implementation targets the POTWs within drinking water supply watersheds or those recycling biosolids. During active review of SPDES permits, NYSDEC will seek to gather more information from the POTWs regarding PFAS and 1,4-D to identify industries having the potential to discharge these emerging contaminants and to monitor the changes in contamination levels over time.
What Are the Applications of This Guidance?
In NYSDEC’s DMM-7 “Interim Strategy for Control of PFAS Compounds,” existing POTWs that are within drinking water supply watersheds or that recycle biosolids could receive a Request for Information (RFI) requiring the POTWs to report the levels of PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-D from representative samples taken from their influent and effluent flows.
NYSDEC reserves the right to propose a modification of the SPDES permits during active review. The POTWs will be required to include a monitoring program to ensure 40 PFAS are monitored in their facilities. This will help in the investigation of the changes in the levels of contaminants and allow for more accurate characterization of the PFAS.
Under 6NYCRR 750-1.7(a)(9), POTWs currently are required to report on industrial users discharging to their systems. The modified SPDES application form 2A requires POTWs to sample for PFOA, PFOS, and 1,4-D in influent samples. Any industrial discharge that represents a substantial increase in the levels of pollutants needs to be reported to NYSDEC before a POTW can accept it.
NYSDEC prioritizes SPDES permit applications based on their Environmental Benefit Permit Strategy (EBPS) scores which consider a POTW’s impact on the environment. Under draft TOGS 1.3.14, NYSDEC could adjust the EBPS scores whenever a POTW is found to require additional investigation based on the information they present regarding emerging contaminant concentrations. This could also include a modification of the SPDES permit as per the established procedures.
Public Comment Timelines
NYSDEC has invited members of the public to submit their comments on draft TOGS 1.3.14 until February 9, 2024.
NYSDEC’s draft guidance focuses on how POTWs indirectly contribute to public health benefits.
Do you have questions or concerns about this new guidance? Click here to learn more about PFAS. Contact Walden today at 516-758-1273 for help understanding how TOGS 1.3.14 might impact your POTW and for assistance with any water quality or SPDES permitting compliance needs.