Pilot chemical clean-up program will begin development in 2020

Issaquah, EFR, and the Department of Ecology will create a PFAS clean-up program in 2020.

Efforts to study and clean up sites in Issaquah with trace amounts of chemical impacts will continue in 2020 thanks to funding from the state Legislature.

The city of Issaquah is partnering with Eastside Fire and Rescue and the Department of Ecology on the continued study and development of action plans surrounding the per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals — also known as PFAS — found at sites in the city.

Thanks to work done with district representatives, Issaquah received $400,000 in funds from the state Legislature to pursue study and the development of a pilot clean-up program.

The presence of PFAS chemicals is attributed to the use of old firefighting foam by the fire department in training exercises in the mid-2000s. While the use of that specific foam has stopped, remnants of PFAS chemicals still remain in the city.

At the council committee work session on June 24, Bob Anderson of Geosyntec Consultants updated the council on some of the recent developments to the program and reported the results of the PFAS study conducted in 2018.

The regulatory framework around PFAS chemicals is sparse, Anderson said, but the Environmental Protections Agency has set advisory levels for PFAS presence in drinking water of 0.07 micrograms per liter.

In 2016, the city discovered PFAS in the water coming out of Well 4 and took aggressive action to install a wellhead treatment system.

“The water that’s going into the wellhead treatment system is at about .5 micrograms per liter, seven times the advisory limit, and it goes through these canisters of granular activated carbon and that strips out the PFAS and the water that comes out of those canisters is below the detection limit,” Anderson said. “Your treatment system is working really well and the water is safe to drink.”

States around the country are now looking into established regulations for PFAS in drinking water. The Department of Health is beginning discussions around establishing a limit for PFAS but Anderson said that process could take one year to 18 months.

No formal regulations are in place, so the partnership between the city, EF&R and Ecology was formed. The group worked with Legislature during the 2019 session to secure $400,000 in funding for continued monitoring and program development work. An additional $100,000 will come from the Ecology, and an additional expected costs of approximately $50,000 will be split by the city and EF&R.

According to Anderson, the proposed pilot clean-up plan could be used as early data to inform the state discussion on future regulations of PFAS in water.

The results of the 2018 study showed than the concentrations of PFAS in soil were less than the interim “investigatory levels,” meaning it was safe for physical contact, but Anderson added that there is still some risk in rainwater moving through soil and transferring some of the chemicals to the groundwater table.

The partnership will continue study and monitoring work in 2019 and they expect to begin the remedial action plan in 2020.

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