Regulatory Alert: EPA Releases Updated Interim Guidance on PFAS Disposal & Destruction

On April 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released updated interim guidance that outlines the latest data and research on different methodologies to dispose and destroy (D&D) PFAS and PFAS-containing products, including aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). The guidance identifies three large-scale technologies available to control and mitigate the environmental release of PFAS, including underground injection, landfilling, and thermal treatment. EPA released a fact sheet that explains the guidance, which applies to all industries that manage PFAS.
In the updated guidance, EPA primarily summarized existing research and data rather than providing clear recommendations for D&D of AFFF or PFAS-containing materials. However, when determining how to manage these materials, airports should consider the information published by EPA, along with guidance recently released by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). In March, DOD outlined how the department plans to dispose of rinsate and other PFAS-containing materials that will be generated as part of the department’s transition to fluorine-free firefighting foam (F3). Airports may find DOD’s approach more practical than EPA’s interim guidance. Nevertheless, AAAE continues to engage with and press the Hill, FAA, and EPA to provide airports with information about the most effective way to manage these PFAS-containing materials.
Moving forward, EPA plans to accept public comments for 180 days after the updated interim guidance is published in the Federal Register. We will be working with our PFAS Working Group (WG) to determine whether to file comments. If you are interested in participating in our next PFAS WG meeting, it is being held on Wednesday, April 17, at 2 p.m. ET. You can participate by contacting Megan Eisenstein at The group has been meeting regularly to facilitate discussion among airports on this important issue.
Background. Pursuant to the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress required EPA to publish guidance on the disposal and destruction of PFAS and materials containing PFAS, including AFFF. In developing the interim guidance, EPA was required to consider several factors, including (a) the potential for releases of PFAS during destruction or disposal, including through volatilization, air dispersion, or leachate; and (b) potentially vulnerable populations living near likely destruction or disposal sites. The agency was also required to provide guidance on the testing and monitoring of air, effluent, and soil near these types of sites that handle PFAS and PFAS containing materials.
In comments filed in early 2021, AAAE strongly urged the EPA to provide definitive and practical guidance for airports and other aviation entities that deal with PFAS. We identified the need for options for disposing PFAS and PFAS-containing materials, particularly AFFF. AAAE emphasized the need for greater clarity and guidance in this area to address concerns that have arisen in our industry.
Updated Interim Guidance Highlights. The updated interim guidance emphasizes the three main D&D technologies, highlighting and explaining the technologies, research needs, and data gaps. The document advocates for greater cooperation between stakeholders that deal with PFAS and the EPA. Both parties have a shared goal of gathering data and improving decision-making. It introduces new EPA testing methods and enhanced screening tools to better protect communities near pollution-heavy disposal facilities. Several areas of the guidance are worth highlighting:

  • Updated Research and Data on D&D Technologies.
    •  Thermal Destruction. EPA discussed promising research that shows the effectiveness of thermal treatment units in destroying PFAS and minimizing releases or exposures. These findings, however, may be limited to the existence of certain conditions and more information is needed to evaluate this option.
    • Hazardous-Waste Landfills. Hazardous waste landfills present an option to dispose of PFAS. However, new EPA data shows that these landfills release more PFAS than previously believed. Using controls such as leachate emission protections may make landfills a more viable option by controlling the release of PFAS when this method is used.
    • Underground Injection. EPA explained that the design, construction, operation, and monitoring of Class 1 injection wells allows for the protection of underground sources of drinking water from PFAS. However, this option is not always appropriate or available and requires adherence to certain standards that can be onerous.

  • Emerging D&D Technologies. The guidance outlines a framework for assessing the safety and effectiveness of emerging PFAS D&D technologies being developed and tested by companies and researchers. It underscores the critical need for innovation, thorough research, and rigorous validation of these approaches.

  • Costs and Considerations. EPA added a new “appendix D” to its guidance that provides estimates of costs for end-of-life management of PFAS materials by thermal treatment, landfilling, and underground injection. EPA estimated the landfill cost per ton of AFFF waste as being between $1,300 and $3,660.

  • Impact on Vulnerable Communities. EPA has provided updated tools and methods to evaluate the effects of releases from D&D facilities on nearby communities, recommending their use to protect vulnerable populations, engage residents, and inform decisions.


 What’s Next? EPA indicated they will publish the interim guidance in the Federal Register in the near term, triggering a 180-day comment period. Per FY20 NDAA requirements, EPA is obligated to revisit and potentially revise the document within three years based on new research and understanding of these technologies. AAAE, through its PFAS WG, will evaluate the interim guidance and respond accordingly.