Land and groundwater

Frequently asked questions about PFAS


PFOS and PFOA are the most commonly known types of PFAS; however, the following questions and answers aim 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 is 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. This guidance is based on the National Environmental Management Plan for PFAS and ensure a nationally collaborative and consistent approach to the management of PFAS.

FAQs for Victorian businesses + 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?

    Landfill disposal is not EPA’s preferred management option. The NEMP provides further information on the preferred hierarchy of treatment and remediation options. EPA recommends you minimise the volumes of PFAS-impacted soils or sediments wherever possible.

    In some instances, if there are no other possible management options available, PFAS-impacted solid waste may be disposed of to landfill through a classification application (see below for further information). EPA considers PFAS-impacted wastes to be prescribed industrial waste (PIW). In determining whether PFAS-impacted material can be accepted at landfill EPA will give consideration to the landfill acceptance criteria detailed in the NEMP.

    If you have a query regarding disposal of PFAS-impacted solid waste to landfill you can contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au

  • How do I submit a classification application to EPA for the disposal of PFAS-impacted waste?

    Please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) to discuss your classification application.

    EPA may arrange an initial meeting to discuss the classification process, and for EPA to gain understanding of the waste stream. EPA will specify what data is required and may request additional information where necessary.

  • Where can I dispose of PFAS-impacted wastes?

    Refer to the EPA Industrial Waste Database. The waste code (M160) and treatment codes are used in EPA-issued licenses to specify how PFAS waste can be treated or disposed of. A classification application must be submitted to EPA for approval prior to disposal of any PFAS-impacted solid waste.

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

    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.

    If a waste disposal contractor advises you that it can treat PFAS waste, EPA recommends you check that 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.

    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 (such as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)) 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.

    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.

  • Can PFAS-impacted wastes 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 PFAS-contaminated 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 prescribed industrial waste (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 or deposit 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 National Environment Protection (Movement of Controlled Waste between States and Territories) Measure (NEPM), EPA Victoria checks if a valid consignment authorisation is held by the consignor when transporting PFAS into Victoria. 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, sediments and industrial wastes when there are limited options for treatment or disposal?

    The National Environmental Management Plan for PFAS (NEMP) provides further information on the preferred hierarchy of treatment and remediation options. EPA recommends you minimise the volumes of PFAS-impacted soils, sediments or industrial wastes wherever possible.

    It may be appropriate to store PFAS-impacted soils, sediments and industrial wastes 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. The NEMP provides further information regarding onsite storage and containment of PFAS-impacted material.

    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.

  • Is the treatment or storage of PFAS-impacted waste subject to requirements under the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises and Exemptions) Regulations 2017?

    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?

    The National Environmental Management Plan for PFAS (NEMP) recommends a landfill acceptance criteria and new waste code, M270, which will be adopted in Victoria following the rewrite of the Industrial Waste Resource Regulations in the next 24 months. In the meantime, PFAS-contaminated material will be managed in accordance with the NEMP using the following process:

    • PFAS-contaminated liquids, solids and sludges destined for storage or treatment will be tracked using the waste code M160 – Halogenated chemicals not otherwise specified.
    • Solid waste destined for landfill disposal will be controlled through the use of a classification. Landfill disposal of solid waste must only occur after submitting a classification application to EPA for approval.

    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.

  • 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.

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

    If you have an urgent need to manage PFAS wastes and can't find the necessary information on this web page, please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email your query to wasteissues@epa.vic.gov.au.

FAQs for impacted communities + Expand all Collapse all

  • I live near a PFAS-impacted site. What should I be aware of?

    It is generally considered that the most common ways humans are exposed to PFAS is by drinking or eating things that contain these chemicals. Studies have shown that the majority of people will have some PFAS compounds in their blood at low levels.  

    As part of work carried out on PFAS-impacted sites, EPA requires duty holders to investigate whether offsite contamination has occurred. You may have been contacted by a business requesting access to water sources for testing and provided with the results. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about your health.

    For more information on exposure pathways please see our Interim position statement on PFAS (publication 1669).

  • What are the potential health effects associated with PFAS?

    According to the Australian Government’s Expert Health Panel for PFAS Report 2018 there is no consistent evidence that PFAS are harmful to human health, or cause any specific illnesses such as cancer, even in the case of highly exposed occupational populations.

    Adverse effects have been seen in animals, but at higher levels than have been found in people. The link between the effects seen in animals and how these relate to human health is not yet clear.

    The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has published a literature review and report on the health effects of PFAS.

  • I operate a farm near a PFAS-impacted site. What precautions should I take?

    As part of work carried out on PFAS-impacted sites, EPA requires duty holders to investigate whether offsite contamination has occurred. You may have been contacted by a business requesting access to water sources for testing and provided with the results. For any information on how to manage livestock that may have been in contact with PFAS please refer to Agriculture Victoria’s website.

  • I live near a PFAS-impacted site and use bore water to irrigate my fruit and veggie garden. Is it safe?

    If you have concerns that your bore water might be contaminated with PFAS please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC).

Page last updated on 1 Aug 2018