PFAS in Surface Waters

A view of the Mad River

PFAS stands for “Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.” This is a large group of human-made chemicals that have been used in industry and in many consumer products since the 1950s because they are resistant to heat, water, oil, grease and stains. There is growing concern because some of these chemicals have been linked to health problems even at very low contamination levels. 

In 2021, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, monitored for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in lakes and rivers at a total of 19 sites in northern Vermont, including 10 sites in Lake Memphremagog and its watershed; in fish tissue at eight of the 19 sites; and in effluent at three wastewater treatment facilities. The purpose of the monitoring effort was to better understand the concentration of PFAS in surface waters and fish tissue.

Actions to Develop New Surface Water Quality Standards

Governor Scott signed Act 21 (Senate Bill 49), on May 16, 2019, containing, among other tasks, requirements to establish new water quality standards for PFAS chemicals.  Here’s a timeline for actions: