Land and groundwater

Managing PFAS-impacted wastes in Victoria


PFOS and PFOA are the most commonly known types of PFAS; however, this advice aims to provide guidance for all PFAS-impacted materials, including contaminated water, soils, sediments and other solid materials (solid or liquid PFAS-impacted wastes).

Although PFAS have been in use for decades, it’s only recently that they have been the focus of health and environmental investigations and have had an increased environmental regulatory focus.

As a consequence of these emerging concerns about PFAS and the chemical characteristics of PFAS, there are currently limited options available in Victoria for managing or disposing of PFAS-impacted wastes.

Due to the current national and international focus on PFAS, EPA anticipates that the government and waste management and technology sectors will respond to the current challenges and more waste management options will become available over time. In the interim, this information aims to provide guidance to duty holders who have current requirements to manage PFAS-impacted wastes.

Options for managing PFAS-impacted waste + Expand all Collapse all

  • Can solid wastes impacted by PFAS (e.g., contaminated soils, demolition waste and other solid industrial wastes) be disposed of at Victorian landfills?

    EPA is still working to understand the risks associated with landfill disposal of these wastes and, currently, is not approving landfill disposal (excluding common consumer products). This is because PFAS are very soluble and mobile, and current landfill leachate management practices may not provide adequate environmental protection.

    EPA is concerned about the potential for eventual discharge of PFAS to the broader environment via landfill leachate under current management practices. Therefore, landfilling of PFAS-impacted solid wastes is not currently considered to be a suitable waste management solution and you will need to consider other alternatives such as treatment, onsite containment or secured temporary storage. Once EPA has determined the acceptability of landfill disposal, this information will be made available; landfilling may or may not be considered viable in the future.

  • Are PFAS-impacted wastes classified as prescribed industrial waste (PIW) in Victoria?

    Yes, EPA considers PFAS to be PIW.

    While specific categorisation thresholds are yet to be assigned, the information available both nationally and internationally suggests that PFAS-impacted wastes are likely to continue to be classified as PIW above certain concentrations in the future. Until more is known about PFAS, EPA is employing a precautionary approach.

  • Are there any waste disposal contractors in Victoria that can currently treat PFAS-impacted wastes?

    There are currently no facilities licensed specifically to treat PFAS-impacted wastes in Victoria.

    Treatment options for PFAS-impacted wastes are very limited in Australia, due to the chemical characteristics of PFAS and because the chemicals are relatively new contaminants of concern.

    A number of treatment companies are investigating processes to treat PFAS-contaminated solid and liquid wastes. For example, Renex recently received a research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) approval to conduct a PFAS treatment trial under strict conditions.

    If a waste disposal contractor advises you that it can treat PFAS waste, EPA recommends that you check the company can demonstrate its ability to effectively destroy or permanently capture PFAS. If you’re uncertain, you can contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au. EPA is consulting with waste treatment and disposal industries to identify companies that can appropriately treat PFAS wastes.

    If you are a waste disposal contractor and you are treating PFAS, you should read the rest of this page then contact EPA immediately to discuss your obligations. Contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au. EPA will probably ask you to provide evidence to demonstrate that your treatment is effective.

  • What is the current status of the liquid waste disposal industry in treating PFAS in Victoria?

    PFAS-impacted liquid wastes cannot yet be treated through common trade waste treatment processes, as these processes do not effectively capture or destroy PFAS. PFAS-impacted liquid wastes require specialist treatment to capture and destroy PFAS contaminants. If waste is not treated appropriately the PFAS is likely to be discharged to the environment.

    EPA is consulting with waste treatment and disposal industries to identify companies that can appropriately treat or dispose of PFAS in liquid wastes. There are companies that are currently performing trials in other jurisdictions, with promising results. When these technologies are available in Victoria, EPA will publish this information.

    When discussing options for the treatment of PFAS-impacted liquid wastes, EPA recommends that you question whether the technologies used will capture the PFAS and how the captured PFAS will be managed. Treatment companies should be able to provide you with details of their process, what percentage of the PFAS is captured and how the captured PFAS is managed or destroyed.

    If you are a waste disposal contractor and you are treating PFAS, you should read the rest of this page then contact EPA immediately to discuss your obligations. Contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au. EPA will probably ask you to demonstrate that your treatment is effective.

  • Can PFAS-impacted liquids be disposed to sewer?

    At present, EPA Victoria does not believe disposal of PFAS-impacted liquid waste to sewer is a suitable option, as the PFAS is likely to be released into waterways or contaminate biosolid wastes. We recommend that any PFAS-impacted liquids first be treated to capture and remove the PFAS prior to discharge to sewer.

    If you propose to dispose of PFAS-containing liquids to sewer via trade waste, you must seek approval from the relevant water authority. You must make it explicit to the water authority that the liquid waste contains PFAS. The water authority may require information about the concentrations of PFAS in the liquid and the proposed treatment of this waste to capture and remove the PFAS prior to discharge to sewer, to determine if this discharge is acceptable.

  • Can PFAS-impacted waste be transported interstate for treatment?

    The interstate movement of PFAS-contaminated solid and liquid wastes is regulated under the National Environment Protection (Movement of Controlled Waste between States and Territories) Measure (NEPM).

    If you propose to move liquid wastes out of Victoria, a consignment authorisation must be obtained from the relevant agency in the receiving state or territory jurisdiction. You must also comply with all other relevant regulatory requirements, such as transport permits, waste transport certificates and any approvals that are required from EPA for the transport of waste interstate.

    In addition to the NEPM, any person wanting to transport solid PIW from Victoria to another state or territory must obtain prior approval from EPA Victoria under r.26 of the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009.

    Wastes going interstate for destruction must go to a facility with equivalent or better environmental performance standards than what is available in Victoria. Unless interstate jurisdictions provide confirmation to EPA Victoria that they are willing to receive PFAS-contaminated solid waste, interstate movements will not be approved.

  • Can PFAS-impacted wastes be brought into Victoria for treatment?

    As a signatory of the NEPM, EPA Victoria checks incoming consignments to ensure that the declared receiving facility can treat the waste. Thus, any consignors sending waste to Victorian facilities will be asked to prove that the receiving facility can destroy or capture PFAS.

  • How can I best manage PFAS-impacted soils and sediments if there are no current treatment or disposal options?

    EPA recommends you minimise the volumes of PFAS-impacted soils or sediments wherever possible.

    It may be appropriate to store PFAS-impacted soils and sediments onsite, either temporarily or for the longer term, to minimise the risk of PFAS becoming mobilised and to prevent environmental impact. EPA expects that long-term storage will require consideration of the various pathways for the migration of the PFAS into the environment to inform the long-term management options. This may include construction of a purpose-built containment facility.

    Where PFAS-impacted leachate is generated onsite, leachate collection and management will be necessary. If no waste disposal or treatment option is currently available, you will need to periodically (at least annually) review what options are available to adequately dispose of impacted wastes.

  • How can I best manage other PFAS-impacted industrial wastes if there are no current treatment or disposal options?

    EPA recommends you minimise the volumes of PFAS-impacted solid wastes wherever possible. This could mean:

    • minimise by not mixing with any other material that might not be contaminated
    • a high degree of delineation so that the location and volume of contaminated material is fully known
    • storing wastes onsite in such a way that the risk of mobilising PFAS is minimised as far as practicable to prevent environmental impact (such as through limiting exposure to rain or surface water run-off, as PFAS is very water soluble)
    • where PFAS-impacted leachate is generated, collect and manage the leachate
    • if no waste disposal or treatment option is currently available, you will need to periodically (at least annually) review what options are available to adequately dispose of impacted wastes.
  • Is the treatment or storage of PFAS impacted waste subject to requirements under the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises and Exemptions) Regulations 2007?

    Generally, yes.

    Please complete and submit EPA’s ‘Pathway approvals form’ detailing the proposed treatment and/or storage activities, and EPA will advise what approval (if any) is required. The form is available on our page How to apply for a works approval.

    Regardless of the outcome of this process, EPA will work with you to ensure PFAS-impacted wastes are managed appropriately to protect the environment and human health.

  • I’m currently licensed to accept waste codes that typically include PFAS waste (e.g., N140, M250). Can I accept PFAS waste?

    If your facility is currently accepting PFAS-contaminated waste under a general waste code, please contact EPA immediately to discuss your obligations. Contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au.

    As a first step you will need to demonstrate that you are not currently impacting the environment and that your process or technology is suitable for the intended use.

  • What if I cannot identify a solution from this information?

    If you have an urgent need to manage PFAS wastes and this webpage is not helpful, please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au.

  • I work for a water authority. Should we be allowing PFAS in our trade waste agreements?

    If you are at a water authority and you are accepting PFAS-containing trade waste, you should read the rest of this page then contact EPA immediately to discuss your obligations. Contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au.

    EPA will probably ask you to demonstrate that your treatment is effective. The PFAS contamination is also likely to impact your ability to reuse your biosolids in the future.

Page last updated on 8 Aug 2017