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Environmentalists ask Virginia's DEQ to regulate PFAS pollution

Scientists say a family of chemicals known as PFAS poses long-term dangers to human health.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Scientists say a family of chemicals known as PFAS poses long-term dangers to human health.

State regulators are tracking contamination of the Roanoke River and watersheds in Northern and Eastern Virginia with PFAS – also known as forever chemicals, but they’re not planning to go after polluters because there are no standards issued by the EPA or any other agency. At Wild Virginia, David Sligh says that attitude is unacceptable given the dangers of PFAS.

 “It’s very definitely considered a risk for certain kinds of cancers, fetal and infant development, disrupted hormonal processes.”

And, he says, we should know which manufacturers are likely producers of forever chemicals.

 “Certain kinds of industries like metal finishing, non-stick cookware, products that are specifically designed to be water resistant, things like food packaging sometimes. Clothing can have it.”

He says neighboring states – West Virginia and North Carolina —have joined Michigan and Maine in imposing new regulations on emitters of PFAS, and his organization will challenge future permits that allow companies and water treatment plants to release those contaminants into waterways in Virginia.

Shortly after this story was broadcast the Department of Environmental Quality sent the following statement but did not make any officials available for an interview:

There are currently no Water Quality-Based Effluent Limitations for PFAS. There is also no EPA-approved testing method. It is DEQ’s understanding that EPA is currently validating PFAS Method 1633 in collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD). The Commonwealth of Virginia will reevaluate effluent monitoring requirements and limits for PFAS for wastewater treatment plants as permits are reissued, after an EPA-approved method and standards are finalized.


In 2023, the Virginia General Assembly passed and Governor Youngkin signed HB 2189. This bill, effective July 1, 2023, added a requirement in section 62.1-44.15:5.3 of the Code of Virginia for certain industrial users that discharge to a publicly owned treatment works to test their waste stream for PFAS. Specifically, the testing requirements in section 62.1-44.15:5.3 apply to industrial users of publicly owned treatment works that receive and clean, repair, refurbish, or process any equipment, parts, or media used to treat any water or wastewater from any off-site manufacturing process that the industrial user knows or reasonably should know uses PFAS chemicals. These industrial users are required to test their wastewater for PFAS chemicals prior to and after cleaning, repairing, refurbishing, or processing such items, and must submit the results of their tests within three days of receipt of the test to the receiving publicly owned treatment works.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief