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Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and the Environment

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Learn more about PFAS, what the environmental concerns are, what Environmental Services – Portland’s sewer and stormwater utility – is doing about them, and how you can help.

About PFAS

PFAS are widely used, long-lasting, human-made chemicals commonly used to make products that are non-stick, water-repellent, or stain-repellent. PFAS can be used on non-stick cookware, raingear, makeup, food packaging, carpets, and upholstery, among many other products.

Some of these chemicals are now known to be harmful to human health and the environment.

PFAS and the Environment

Because PFAS are found in many consumer, commercial, and industrial products and processes, they are also present in the environment, including food, water, and soil. Around the country, contamination has typically been traced to specific locations where large amounts of PFAS have been released into the environment over time. This includes industries that manufacture PFAS or apply it to consumer goods and facilities that use certain types of firefighting foam, which may include airports, military bases, and fire department training facilities.

Nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency is the lead agency to address PFAS and is updating existing environmental laws to include PFAS. They are following a Strategic Roadmap to do so. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority are addressing PFAS in Oregon, and have indicated that no major source of PFAS has been found in Oregon that would create regular exposure for Oregonians. Environmental Services is working with our state, federal, and local partners to ensure that PFAS concerns are understood and addressed locally.

PFAS and Drinking Water

Portland’s drinking water is at low risk for PFAS. PFAS have not been detected in drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed and the Columbia South Shore Well Field. The Portland Water Bureau continuously monitors our drinking water sources for PFAS and maintains robust source water protection programs. 

For more information about PFAS and drinking water, visit the Portland Water Bureau’s webpage.

PFAS and Wastewater

The Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant receives and treats wastewater from industries, commercial businesses, and residents. Wastewater treatment plants do not produce PFAS. However, PFAS can make its way into wastewater and treated biosolids because of its widespread use in many products.

Communities with lower use of products with PFAS in them and those with no heavy industrial PFAS producers or users have lower concentrations of PFAS in wastewater and biosolids. On average, municipal wastewater and biosolids are not linked to high PFAS concentrations. Both wastewater discharge and biosolids are subject to regulations limiting contaminants.

What is Environmental Services Doing About PFAS?

Environmental Services is committed to protecting public health and the environment and is taking active steps to address PFAS. These steps include:

What You Can Do About PFAS

You can help the City of Portland protect our streams, rivers, and groundwater from PFAS. We encourage you to learn more about how PFAS are used in household products. As consumers, we must be proactive and understand that purchasing products that contain PFAS and the day-to-day contact with these materials is a source of exposure and contributor to PFAS in the environment.

The best way to prevent PFAS from entering our streams, rivers, and groundwater is to remove the sources through product substitution and to phase out products containing PFAS in industrial and manufacturing processes.

Contact

Cindy Ryals

Environmental Regulatory Coordinator, Toxics Reduction Program