In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has identified PFAS as a priority for 2022/2023 as part of UK REACH.
The first stage is a Regulatory Management Options Appraisal (RMOA) being led by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA) which was due for publication summer 2022. The Royal Society of Chemists (RSC) has also provided a policy position on risk-based regulation for PFAS.
At the current time, while the UK has restricted certain long-chain PFAS (PFOS & PFOA) under Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) regulations, it is not known how the UK will respond to shorter chain PFAS or the wider PFAS group in relation to firefighting foams. For example, there is uncertainty regarding any potential industry specific transition periods, exemptions or thresholds.
For example, modern C6 foam use within the offshore oil and gas industry could represent a lower potential environmental and human health risks given its lack of proximity to drinking water supplies, inland freshwaters and other receptors. In addition, the cost of transition is likely to be significantly higher.
Current UK POPs regulations require companies to identify and produce an inventory of POP stockpiles where PFOA and its derivatives (C8) are measured above relevant thresholds of unintentional contamination levels (25 ppb PFOA and 1000 ppb PFOA derivatives*). This typically involves use of advanced PFAS analysis such as TOP-Assay. Even modern C6 foams if stored in tanks with residual C8 could cause non-compliance.
Where POP stockpiles are identified, they should have been notified to the EA by July 2021 and managed in accordance with the exemptions in the POPs regulations. This means that, unless fully contained, there is no permitted use after 1st January 2023. Even if fully contained there is no permitted use after 4th July 2025.
There are no current restrictions to continue to use C6 foams which are compliant with the POPs regulations.
The Environment Agency have also published guidelines and supporting information regarding the storage and disposal of Class B Firefighting Foams. To downloads copies of these useful documents, please use the links below:
"The Storage and Disposal of Class B Firefighing Foams" - download
"Supporting Information" - download
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.