Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants are becoming increasingly important for real estate transactions. Several states have adopted or proposed health guidelines or Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFAS in their state. States with adopted limits include CA, CT, CO, MN, NC, NH, NJ, and VT; and states with proposed limits include IL, MA, MI, and NY. You can track bills by state here.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are focusing their attention on these contaminants. The WDNR recently issued letters to more than 3,000 responsible parties listed with open cases on the DNR’s Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System (BRRTS) requesting they review PFAS use at open sites. Read a sample of the DNR letter.
With WDNR’s increasing focus on PFAS, a lack of sufficient due diligence, which includes evaluations for PFAS, could lead to significant additional liability for property purchasers, developers, and lenders. In addition, a lack of sufficient assessment could lead to a delay in case closure even after responsible parties have addressed all other contaminants and potential exposure pathways at a site. A sufficient assessment for PFAS will depend on site-specific factors and should carefully consider the associated risks and liabilities.
For real estate buyers, owners, developers, lenders, brokers, and contractors the potential presence of PFAS at a property presents significant liabilities that need to be incorporated into due diligence procedures and safe work plans. The investigation and remediation of sites with PFAS contamination can be expensive, and the WDNR is working to define enforceable cleanup goals for soil and groundwater.
PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their inability to be broken down in the environment. Due to the very high toxicity of PFAS, the proposed groundwater standard is extremely low – in the parts per trillion, which is more than 100 times lower than the groundwater standards for other well-known toxic contaminants such as benzene from gasoline or tetrachloroethylene commonly used at dry cleaners and industrial facilities.
PFAS are found in a wide variety of products, including nonstick coatings (e.g., Teflon), water-repellent coatings used on clothing and food packaging, fume suppressants, and firefighting foams. Potential sources of PFAS include many types of manufacturing and processing facilities, locations where firefighting foams have been used, metal plating facilities, wastewater treatment plants, and many more.
PFAS systems can treat and clean sources and remediation solutions by environmental engineers can bring properties back to life; safe to build and live on.