Washington State recently announced that PFAS are “hazardous substances” regulated under the State’s environmental cleanup laws. The Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) announced its decision online stating that, because “PFAS compounds all have multiple carbon-fluorine bonds,” such “forever chemicals” are already within the State’s existing definition of hazardous substances.[i] Ecology went on to say that releases of PFAS that may threaten human health or the environment in any media must be reported to State regulators, followed by site assessment and, potentially, cleanup. The agency did not define what specific levels would trigger reporting.[ii] That judgment appears to be left to the entity doing the reporting. In doing so, Washington became perhaps the first state in the country to define PFAS in a way that could construe the entire class of PFAS compounds as hazardous substances in a regulatory context.
Photo credit: Dmitry Buber