The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has announced a 60-day public comment period on a new proposed rule to set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.[Read more…] about PADEP Announces Public Comment Period on New PFAS Drinking Water Standards
BY ALFRED YATES P.E.
Stormwater Management is an important task for residential and commercial properties. Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) and Businesses Park Property Owners Associations (POA’s) have been responsible for the perpetual inspection, operation and maintenance of stormwater management structures, and other common structures, for decades. In the past this may have consisted of a handful of relatively straightforward storm water detention basins – Sounds easy right? Local and state regulators now require the installation of a veritable smorgasbord of stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP’s) to address stormwater quality and infiltration, in addition to peak flow attenuation. The upkeep of these stormwater BMP’s can create a significant financial strain, if not properly managed and funded through ongoing association fees. Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual.
HOA’s and POA’s typically have little, to no experience, in the operation of these complex stormwater management facilities.
Some of the more common issues that Brickhouse Environmental routinely addresses are:
- Managing the transition of stormwater BMP’s from Developer to HOA and POA control;
- Infiltration structures that don’t infiltrate stormwater (You had one job!);
- Deteriorating culvert pipes and basin outlets;
- Lack of a Reserve Study to establish funding for stormwater BMP’s maintenance;
- Stabilizing severe scour at storm water discharge locations and adjacent stream banks;
- Soggy yards and flooding of basements caused by both poor grading and inadequate drainage;
- Providing Professional Engineering Expert Reports and litigation support to HOA’s; and
- Compliance with ongoing stormwater inspection and reporting requirements.
Given these often-overlooked liabilities, HOA’s and businesses should budget for the routine inspection and maintenance of their storm water facilities through regularly updated Reserve Studies. This ensures that adequate funds are in place to address the predictable, periodic costs to repair and maintain these facilities.
Brickhouse Environmental’s experienced staff of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Scientists are able to quickly assess stormwater situations, provide stormwater management solutions and respond to our client’s needs. Whether it is preliminary site planning, layout and design of new stormwater facilities, rehabilitation of existing stormwater facilities, inspection, expert testimony for litigation support or determining ongoing maintenance responsibilities, our highly trained staff is able to guide our clients through the ever evolving and complicated field of stormwater management.
For more information, please contact Al Yates, P. E.
Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC)
Program deadline is: December 31, 2019
Have you received a letter from the SRBC regarding your water use?
Do you have a groundwater withdrawal of 100,000 gallons of water per day or more initiated prior to July 13, 1978? *
Do you have a surface water withdrawal of 100,000 gallons per day or more initiated prior to November 11, 1995?*
Does your facility consume 20,000 gallons per day or more from surface water, groundwater, a combination thereof, or any other source (including a public water supply), initiated prior to January 23, 1971?*
Don’t miss the deadline and lose your grandfathered status.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will want to utilize the Grandfathered Water Use Registration Program provided by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.
NOTE Threshold volumes are expressed as consecutive 30–day averages. The facility’s volume is determined by totaling the actual daily withdrawal or consumptive use over the peak consecutive 30–day period, then dividing by 30.
* if you initiated a withdrawal above these quantities after the listed dates, you should already have a permit.
Have Questions? Reach out to Brickhouse Environmental’s SRBC expert, Stephen Huxta
Contaminants Challenge our Drinking Water
Water is one of our most basic needs. Contaminants challenge our drinking water and something needs to be done about it. Our existing water and wastewater infrastructure have done wonders in preventing outbreaks of water borne disease, but we continue to face challenges in ensuring the water we drink is safe for consumption. One of the major challenges currently being faced is “emerging contaminants” in our public water supplies. The uncertainty around what is and is not safe for consumption, water testing methodologies, and the absence of existing infrastructure to treat these contaminants is challenging local governments, water suppliers, and affected communities.
In prior news alerts, we have discussed the basics around one of the most headlining groups of emerging contaminants, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). water-resource-management PFOA and PFOS, the most common PFAS, have likely been present in public water supplies for many years, but they went undetected because PFAS were not on the lists of compounds to be tested for. Once the problem was identified, more and more public water systems were found to be impacted and had to be shut down until they found alternative water supplies.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved quickly to establish a Health Advisory Limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). While drinking water standards have historically been defined by the EPA and then later adopted by the states, many state regulators are not satisfied, and they have moved to take their own aggressive and unprecedented actions. As examples, the NJDEP has already proposed the lowest standards in the country at 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. And Pennsylvania has established a task force which is tasked to develop standards of their own for PA.
Pennsylvania has also proposed steps toward a solution in treating impacted water supplies through Governor Wolf’s “Restore Pennsylvania” plan. https://www.governor.pa.gov/restore-pennsylvania/ This plan is designed to address critical infrastructure needs across the state. Among other things, the plan will provide grants for installation of treatment systems for PFAS in drinking water for both public and private supplies.
The proposed funding could help provide relief for impacted water supplies in areas where a source of the PFAS cannot be determined. And enforcement is also being stepped-up to identify potentially responsible parties in places where the source can be identified. So, is history preparing to repeat itself with regulatory liability allocations and natural resource damage assessments not seen since the heyday of environmental regulation development? Time will tell. In the meantime, Brickhouse scientists and engineers maintain the regulatory and technical edge to identify possible issues during due diligence and provide technical guidance for properties affected by these and other emerging contaminants.
New water rules or criteria weren’t the only thing the new year brought us. The hard work and efforts made during last year have paid off- In 2019, Brickhouse welcomes good news and wishes to congratulate our valued staff on their various career successes.
Long-time employee and registered Professional Geologist (P.G.), Douglas Schott, has now added another state of licensure to his resumé: New York. Having been registered in the state of Pennsylvania and Delaware for over ten years, he has now completed the requirements for P.G. status in New York State. Congratulations Doug!
Registered Professional Geologist, Jeffrey Christopher, recently succeeded in the rigorous Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) testing. Each Year, New Jersey accepts only a small number of candidates for testing, of which number, even fewer are chosen to be licensed. We are extremely proud of Jeff, who is now an LSRP in the state of New Jersey. Way to go Jeff!
Stephen Huxta is now a registered Professional Geologist and holds a Masters Degree in Hydrogeology from the University of Pennsylvania. We heartily congratulate Steve, who has been with Brickhouse Environmental since the start of his professional career and has worked hard every single day. Excellent work Steve!
We are proud of our staff and look forward to a bright year ahead!
On January 18, 2019, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced proposed interim ground water quality criteria for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), emerging contaminants that are extremely persistent in the environment.
The DEP has developed draft interim criteria of 10 parts per trillion for each of these chemicals, lower than current standards or guidelines in any other state. The DEP has requested public input through Feb. 19, with the goal of making these interim criteria effective within the next several months. These criteria will remain in effect on an interim basis, until the DEP adopts formal rules setting formal standards for ground water and drinking water.
The interim ground water criteria will be used by the DEP, parties conducting remediation, and Licensed Site Remediation Professionals in making decisions about ground water remediation strategies in impacted areas. These criteria will also apply to regulated dischargers to ground water, including industries.
For more information on NJDEP’s Request for Public Input, go to:
The 2018 Clean Water Rule eliminates the significant nexus determination, streamlining the jurisdictional review process and allowing land use decisions to be made without employing a team of lawyers to determine what puddles can be filled without a permit. The 2018 Rule provides a clearer demarcation of federal jurisdiction of waters and wetlands without hindering the rights of states to implement protections for other waters.
Since the passage of the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, filling of “waters of the United States” without a permit has been prohibited. The Act specifically mentions navigable waters and territorial seas, but the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers quickly expanded the working definition of “waters of the United States” to include tributaries to such waters, as well as adjacent wetlands. Because the Act failed to provide a definition of “waters of the United States,” the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, landowners, and the courts have struggled to agree on what other waters are covered by the permit requirement. Since 1977, Brickhouse Environmental has been helping land owners and developers navigate the ever-changing rules and regulations.
In 1985 (US v. Riverside Bayview Homes), the Supreme Court ruled that the Army Corps was reasonable in expanding jurisdiction to cover wetlands adjacent to “waters of the United States.” In 2001, following further expansion, the Supreme Court held that the Army Corps could not reasonably claim jurisdiction over isolated wetlands based on their use by migratory birds (SWANCC v. US Army Corps of Engineers). In 2005, the Court created a standard to determine whether an isolated wetland had a “significant nexus” to “waters of the United States” before the Army Corps could claim jurisdiction (Rapanos v. US).
In 2015, in an attempt to clarify the definition and address the findings of Rapanos, the EPA issued a Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States.” The 2015 Clean Water Rule greatly expanded the scope of jurisdiction to include not only traditionally navigable waters, their tributaries and adjacent wetlands, and any other water that could be shown to have a “significant nexus” to other waters of the United States, but also included isolated waters, such as prairie potholes, Carolina bays, and vernal pools. The significant nexus determination would be case specific and could be interpreted to include ephemeral drainage ways that only see flow during rain events, and, in the extreme, could include sheet flow as well as channelized flow. The 2015 definition was immediately challenged and is still in legal limbo, in effect in 22 states (including PA, MD, DE, NJ, and NY), with the remaining states still operating under prior rules.
In 2017, the EPA issued notice to repeal the 2015 Rule and in December 2018, issued a revised Clean Water Rule with six categories of “waters of the United States:”
1. Traditionally navigable waters (rivers, canals, lakes, and seas used in interstate and foreign commerce)
2. Tributaries to navigable waters with intermittent or perennial flow
3. Ditches that meet the conditions of navigable waters or tributaries
4. Lakes and ponds that meet the conditions of navigable waters or that contribute intermittent or perennial flow to downstream waters
5. Impoundments of other waters of the US
6.Wetlands that physically touch other waters of the US, or that have a surface water connection in a typical year to other waters of the US
Excluded are groundwater, ephemeral features and stormwater runoff, ditches that are not navigable or are not themselves tributaries, prior converted cropland, artificially irrigated areas, artificial lakes and ponds constructed in uplands, depressions created in uplands incidental to mining or construction, stormwater control features constructed in uplands, wastewater recycling structures in uplands, waste treatment systems, and any other waters or water features not specifically listed as “waters of the United States.”
Following publication of the 2018 Clean Water Rule in the Federal Register, the EPA and Army Corps will be accepting public comments for a period of 60 days. More information can be found at https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule.
Emerging Contaminants present special challenges when conducting Phase I and Phase II Environmental Ste Assessments (ESAs). Most people probably still not have heard of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), but for many people living near U.S. military bases, these chemicals have become very well known. Over the past few years, PFOS and PFOA have been generating headlines across the country, with drinking water contamination from firefighting foams reported on and around at least 37 military bases in 19 states. In the Philadelphia region, the highest profile contaminated military sites include the former Willow Grove Naval Air Base and current Horsham Air Guard Station, and the former Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Bucks County, as well as New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and the Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Delaware.
PFOS and PFOA, the two most notable of the Perfluorinated compound (PFC) family, have been found in the blood of humans, wildlife, and fish. Adverse health risks associated with exposure to PFCs include developmental issues and select types of cancer (i.e. kidney cancer). These chemicals were widely used in firefighting foams from 1970 to 2015, to extinguish fires from aviation fuels at military sites and airports. On May 25, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a public health advisory, and established health advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. This interim standard is very low, and is especially impactful, considering that the compounds were previously unregulated in drinking water supplies. More recently, the States of Delaware and New Jersey have issued even stricter regulatory standards of 7 (PFOA and PFOS) and 14 (PFOA) ppt, respectively.
After the EPA classified these compounds as “emerging contaminants,” the Department of Defense required testing of water quality at nearly 400 facilities where the firefighting foam was used. The results have been staggering for some of these communities, as public water supplies have been shut down, due to significant exceedances of the EPA health advisory standards. More studies are yet to come, as Congress’ recently approved Omnibus spending bill allocated $44 million to the Air Force and $44 million to the Navy, to conduct additional studies and remediation, specifically on sites with suspected and/or confirmed PFOA and PFOS contamination.
As more studies are conducted, PFCs are being found in water supplies near other types of non-government facilities, including certain types of manufacturing plants, fire safety training centers, airports, and other undetermined sources. Locally, PFOA and PFOS have impacted drinking water supplies in two additional Bucks County neighborhoods, at the Ridge Run PFC Site in East Rockhill, and the Easton Road PFC Site in Doylestown. These Sites are actively being investigated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
How Do PFCs Travel in the Environment?
The chemical characteristics of these compounds make them highly soluble in groundwater and persistent in the environment, as they do not hydrolyze, photolyze, or biodegrade. As a result, PFCs can migrate long distances through groundwater, and have been documented in contaminant plumes extending over one mile from the source area. Environmental release mechanisms have been documented to include direct discharge to the ground from extinguishing fires or in fire safety training areas, discharge of waste water to soils or drainage lines, land application of contaminated sludges, and dispersion from industrial air or vapor emissions. Once discharged to the surface soils, the soluble compounds migrate down to the groundwater with infiltrating precipitation, and disperse from there.
How Do They Impact Environmental Due Diligence?
PFOA and PFOS present special challenges for the Environmental Professional when conducting Phase I and Phase II Environmental Ste Assessments (ESAs). It is essential to stay up-to-date with both Federal and State regulations and advisories, which are continuously being updated for these compounds, as more is understood. Interim standards and advisory levels vary from state to state, and are often not included in a state’s published list of cleanup standards.
Consider a typical Phase I ESA for a commercial or industrial property transaction. As part of All Appropriate Inquiry, as defined by the EPA, the Environmental Professional typically follows specific protocols outlined in ASTM’s Standard Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, to evaluate whether potential environmental liabilities are present. Standard practice includes inquiry of reasonably available public records sources, to gather readily available information for the subject property and surrounding area.
This records search and review is typically accomplished through the acquisition and review of a Regulatory Database Report, which is available through specialized database providers; But due to the lack of published health standards and the short period of time since the publication of the EPA health advisory, there can be a lag time before even the known PFC sites make it onto these databases.
As a result, it is essential that the Environmental Professional keeps up-to-date with both the regulatory and technical landscape, as both are continuously evolving. They will need to rely on their specialized knowledge and experience to know when to dig deeper, and what questions to ask, to determine whether a property may have a greater potential for PFOA or PFOS liabilities. In a Phase I ESA, this carries through the interview process, the site reconnaissance, and the historical research of the property and neighboring properties. For a manufacturing site, the Environmental Professional needs to consider whether PFCs were ever part of the onsite manufacturing process. For commercial sites, we need to consider all potential offsite sources, current or historic, and evaluate the potential for the PFCs to have migrated onto the property from those offsite sources; And, of course, if fire-fighting foams were used onsite or on nearby properties.
The next set of challenges comes when there is a recommendation to collect groundwater or soil samples for PFOA and PFOS analyses. Specialized sampling equipment and techniques are required to prevent “false positive” detections, due to cross-contamination from sampling equipment, bottleware, lab equipment, or any number of other sources. Thus, in addition to a top-notch laboratory, an experienced Hydrogeologist and a solid QA/QC team are crucial for assuring accurate analytical results.
If you would like to know more about PFCs and other emerging contaminants, please contact one of our experienced Hydrogeologists at Brickhouse Environmental. We will be glad to assist you in any way that we can.