PFAS-containing foam – known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) – is used to fight fires fueled by oil, gasoline, or other flammable liquids. It’s also a leading cause of PFAS contamination in drinking water across the state.
In recent years, safer alternatives to these foams have become available, and Washington prohibited the sale and manufacture of PFAS foams in 2018.
In 2020, Ecology initiated a program to help municipal fire departments dispose of unused AFFF. Safely disposing of that foam after it has been collected is challenging, however – PFAS aren’t known as “forever chemicals” for nothing. The Washington Department of Ecology has been studying options for AFFF disposal and is now seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement outlining five disposal options for firefighting foams with toxic PFAS chemicals.
Comments received on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) will help inform Ecology’s selection of a disposal method for the program. The draft EIS describes five disposal options for municipal supplies of AFFF: incineration, solidification and landfilling, deep-well injection, approved hold-in-place, and no action. The DEIS also includes possible public health and environmental impacts of each option and potential mitigation strategies.
Why is PFAS contamination a concern?
Exposure to PFAS levels above recommended limits over time may lead to harmful health effects, such as increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of thyroid disease and certain cancers, decreased birth weights, and decreased immune response to vaccines. Many types of PFAS are water soluble and highly mobile, meaning they can easily contaminate groundwater. These chemicals are highly persistent in the environment.
Review the AFFF DEIS and submit comments online now through Feb. 5, 2024.