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PFAS Pollution Prevention Project

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been awarded an EPA Pollution Prevention Grant to collaborate with scientific experts and businesses in the metal finishing and aerospace industries to identify per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in business operations and to reduce or eliminate PFAS entering wastewater and the environment. 

The goal of this project is to reduce PFAS use through pollution prevention approaches, such as transitioning to products that are PFAS-free or contain less toxic PFAS compounds, and/or by changing operations or practices to minimize PFAS within wastewater. This project will include: 

  • Identifying the types of PFAS chemicals used in operations.
  • Determining how PFAS enters process wastewater through technical assistance and sampling.
  • Developing strategies to transition away from PFAS chemicals.  

What are the Benefits from Business Participation?

  • Free training. Learn about the environmental, health and safety concerns associated with PFAS and receive guidance on current PFAS regulations in Vermont and the US. Attend technical trainings to identify methods to reduce PFAS in operations and switch to non-PFAS or less toxic alternatives.
  • Free technical assistance. Work with DEC scientists and technical assistance experts to remove PFAS from your wastewater discharge.
  • Build your brand.  Improve your business’ commitment to socially and environmental responsible practices.
  • Join an innovative team. Collaborate with DEC scientists, technical assistance experts, and other pariticpating aerospace and metal plating industries to share project findings and realistic solutions to reduce PFAS in the industrial sector.

Why are PFAS a concern?

When PFAS enters a municipal wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) through residential and industrial wastewater, the chemicals cannot be removed or destroyed. PFAS largely pass through the WWTF and are either discharged to Vermont lakes and rivers or accumulate in sludge or biosolids.

PFAS have toxic effects and pose human health risks even at very low levels (parts per trillion). For more information visit the Vermont Department of Health.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Health continue to identify sources and reduce the use, release and public exposure of PFAS in Vermont.

How is the metal finishing industry using PFAS?

PFAS in the metal finishing industry can be associated with:

  • Surfactants, dispersants, wetting agents, or fume/mist suppressing agents;
  • Corrosion inhibitors or other products to reduce wear, enhance heat resistance, or aesthetic appearance;
  • Leveling agents for zinc electrodeposition;
  • Electroless plating of nickel/copper and electroplating of copper, nickel, and/or tin.

A major source of PFAS in metal finishing was a PFOS-based mist suppressant used as a control for hexavalent
chromium emissions. By 2002, the primary U.S. manufacturer of PFOS voluntarily phased out production of
PFOS and industry transitioned to other PFAS precursors such as 6:2 fluorotelemer sulfonate. However, mist
suppressants and other sources of PFAS are still a concern because precursor compounds can transform to
terminal PFAS through wastewater processes. Furthermore, PFOS is still detected in metal finishing effluent.

For more information on PFAS visit the ITRC's webpage.