7 Tips for Choosing a Lab and Testing Your Wastewater

Mar 20, 2024 11:00 AM ET
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PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are all over the news. Many of us already realize they pose a health risk to humans and the environment. Manufacturers of PFAS play a huge role in slowing the release of these substances into the environment. In fact, some facilities are required by law to test for PFAS in their wastewater.

While the requirements to test for PFAS in wastewater can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific regulations in place, many manufacturers of PFAS, municipal wastewater treatment plants, and facilities with known or suspected PFAS contamination may be required to test influent (incoming) and effluent (outgoing) wastewater for PFAS.

However, it’s important to realize that even if you think your organization will not be asked to sample wastewater for PFAS because you are not a manufacturer of PFAS or your industry is NOT on EPA’s priority list, think again. With constantly changing proposed regulations, you should be prepared to sample your wastewater for PFAS.

So, how do you know if you need to test your wastewater?

Why Would my Facility Need to Test its Wastewater for PFAS?

First and foremost, exposure to PFAS-contaminated wastewater can pose risks to the environment and human health. PFAS wastewater discharge can disrupt local ecosystems and degrade water quality around a facility. Communities living near industrial facilities or downstream of wastewater discharge points may be particularly concerned about exposure to PFAS and its potential impacts on their health. In fact, some PFAS compounds have been associated with adverse health effects, including developmental and reproductive toxicity, immune system dysfunction, and certain types of cancer.

But, that's not all. Regulatory compliance is a huge driver in an organization’s decision to test for PFAS. More and more, PFAS has drawn increasing regulatory attention worldwide. Countries and regions have established regulations and guidelines for PFAS in water, soil, air, and consumer products to limit exposure and protect human health and the environment. Companies discharging wastewater containing PFAS may face regulatory scrutiny, compliance requirements, and potential legal consequences.

In summary, the overarching trend is that testing for PFAS in wastewater will become a more common requirement for organizations. Regardless of why you might need to test your wastewater, finding the right lab for the job is easier said than done. How do you know you're choosing the right lab? What can you do if you suspect your test results aren’t accurate? Below, we have some tips to follow for choosing a lab and getting the most accurate results.

7 Tips for Choosing a Lab and Testing your Wastewater

  1. Be sure to qualify and approve more than one laboratory through your procurement - Many labs have a 6 to 16 week turn-around-time for PFAS sample result reports, and some are too busy to take more samples.
  2. Consider prescreening wastewater for less money rather than using Method 1633 for $500 plus USD. Either of the two below methods should be considered:
    1. Use certified laboratory Method 1621 for total adsorbable organofluorine (AOF) as a "first pass" to determine whether PFAS may be present above roughly 2 ppb.
    2. Use a noncertified field test kit for select PFAS compounds to roughly 1 ppb.
  3. Collect both an influent and wastewater effluent sample – It is not uncommon to observe PFAS in water coming into a facility from the municipality-supplied water.
  4. Collect quality assurance samples - Matrix spike and matrix spike duplicates, duplicate samples, and blank samples are great ways to validate and confirm data integrity.
  5. Consider obtaining results from more than one lab – Wastewater has a stigma with laboratories. Wastewater with many chemicals can damage laboratory equipment or cause down time due to cleaning. As such, the laboratory may decide to dilute your sample. Due to the dilution process, we have observed erroneously elevated PFAS concentrations compared to laboratories that did not dilute the same sample.
  6. Consider collecting samples at various times of the day – PFAS concentrations can fluctuate throughout a 24-hour period.
  7. Ensure a trained professional collects the sample - Sample collection should be completed by a trained professional experienced with potential PFAS sources to eliminate doubt in the sample results and prevent potential cross contamination. Avoid any conditions that may add doubt to your sample. Keeping other non-sampling personnel out of the sample collection area can help prevent potential cross contamination.

What can I do if I suspect my results are inaccurate?

What happens if you get your results back and they don’t seem accurate? Well, we recommend reviewing the testing procedures used to collect and analyze the wastewater samples. Ensure that the procedures followed are consistent with recognized standards and protocols for water quality testing. This may include checking the credentials of the laboratory conducting the analysis (which should have been performed during initial laboratory selection), verifying that they are accredited and certified to perform the required tests, and also talking with the sampler to ensure proper sampling techniques were followed.

In addition, if you have concerns about the accuracy of the initial results, consider retesting the wastewater samples using a different laboratory or testing method (as long as the samples are within holding time). This can help confirm the accuracy of the results and identify any potential discrepancies between the initial and subsequent tests.

Finally, Antea Group recommends seeking expert advice. If you are unsure about how to interpret the testing results or address potential inaccuracies, consider seeking advice from experts in water quality testing and analysis who can provide guidance and assistance in interpreting the results and identifying potential sources of error.

Key Takeaways: Testing Matters

In conclusion, the increasing focus on PFAS has underscored the importance of wastewater testing for these harmful substances. Regardless of industry or direct involvement in PFAS manufacturing, organizations may find themselves subject to regulatory scrutiny and public concern regarding their wastewater discharge. By prioritizing responsible wastewater management and proactive testing measures, organizations can play a vital role in mitigating the impact of PFAS contamination and foster a safer, healthier environment for all.

Do you need help with your wastewater testing? We’re here to help! Contact our Wastewater experts today!