The Washington Department of Ecology proposes to use the state’s hazardous waste contractor, Clean Harbors, to collect stockpiles of PFAS-containing firefighting foam from fire stations and select state agencies across Washington. Clean Harbors will transport the foam to their Aragonite commercial waste incineration facility located in Tooele County, Utah.
PFAS, a class of persistent chemicals known formally as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, can easily contaminate soil and groundwater, are not broken down by any natural processes, and can exist in the environment for hundreds or thousands of years. Firefighters used to use PFAS-containing foams to extinguish oil and fuel fires until the Legislature banned the sale of PFAS-containing foams. In 2019, the Legislature provided Ecology with funding to collect and safely dispose of leftover supplies of PFAS foam that remain at many fire departments and local agencies.
PFAS-contaminated drinking water has been found around military bases such as Fairchild Air Force Base, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Joint Base Lewis McChord, and at Issaquah, WA.
As part of its environmental review, Ecology also examined land disposal, long-term storage, and innovative destruction technology options, and determined that high temperature incineration currently poses the least risk to human health and the environment.
The agency is now seeking public comment on its determination of non-significance and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review.
Ecology’s SEPA documents (checklist and determination of non-significance) are available on its website. Public comments can be sent to the agency’s contact through Thursday, Oct. 1. At the end of the comment period, Ecology will consider relevant input and finalize the plan.