What it contains

EPA is a research and policy leader. We are working to better understand PFAS, their impact and how they can be managed. 

Managing known or suspected PFAS contamination is the obligation of industry and business under the general environmental duty. 


PFAS stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances and are man-made chemicals. PFAS make products non-stick, water repellent and resistant to fire, weather and stain.  

There are low levels of PFAS in the environment around the world, including Victoria. This includes soil, sediment, water, air and animals.  

Since 2016, EPA has investigated the occurrence, concentration, and distribution of PFAS across different land uses. This has included investigating levels of PFAS in soil, freshwater environments, and biota (Sardina et al. 2019; EPA Publication 1879).  

Our research

A new EPA science report on PFAS in the environment enables industry to identify PFAS concentrations in the environment from non-point sources. Unlike point-source pollution, which comes from one place like a pipe or drain, non-point pollution comes from many places. Examples of non-point sources specific to PFAS are runoff from land, food packaging, household products and dust. 

The report’s data shows concentrations of PFAS (PFOS, PFHxS and PFOA) in: 

  • freshwater
  • sediment
  • riparian soil (e.g. soil samples collected next to freshwater)

PFAS concentrations are provided for different land uses (e.g. industrial, agricultural, urban, mixed).

This document provides information to improve Victorians understanding of PFAS concentrations in the ambient environment.

This document is not a guidance document. It is a science report that summarises the state of knowledge on PFAS. It does not:

  • set compliance limits 
  • set background concentrations for PFAS to create specific obligations you must follow 
  • set out enforceable compliance limits to assess risks to human health or the environment 
  • include methods for classification of PFAS impacted waste 
  • describe concentrations that you may pollute up to 
  • replace any duty to manage risks to human health or the environment.

What we found

  • PFAS were detected more often in freshwaters compared to sediment and riparian soil 
  • PFAS was detected more often in urban industrial and residential sites, than in agricultural or remote sites 
  • In urban-ambient land-use sites (>50% commercial or/and industrial or/and residential), PFOS was detected in all water samples 
  • PFOS was detected at higher concentrations than PFHxS and PFOA. 
  • The results for PFAS are consistent with concentrations observed in previous EPA studies in Victoria

What this means

The research will: 

  • improve the Victorian community’s understanding of PFAS concentrations in the environment  
  • be relevant to people and organisms that may be exposed to PFAS in and around Victoria’s waterways.

Next steps

Further research is being carried out by EPA to better understand the movement of PFAS in land and waterways in Victoria.

The research will help:

  • inform future decision-making for the safe management of soil containing PFAS. 


Please note: This is not a guidance document. It is for informational purposes only. 
If you have any questions or need more information, visit epa.vic.gov.au, email contact@epa.vic.gov.au or call 1300 372 842


Publication number
Release date
4 October 2022

Reviewed 28 August 2023