The California State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) has issued an Order to approximately 160 bulk fuel storage terminals and refineries in California requiring implementation of a PFAS site investigation.  The State Water Board identified the recipients of the Order on the basis that they had stored and/or used materials that may contain PFAS such as AFFF for fire suppression, fire training, and flammable vapor suppression.  In addition, the Order notes that petroleum-product storage tanks may use a floating layer of cereal grains treated with PFAS on top of the liquid surface to reduce evaporation loss, and facilities storing hydrocarbon fuels may prevent evaporation through use of an aqueous layer containing PFAS.

The recipients of the Order are required to identify the areas where PFAS-containing materials were stored, used and/or disposed, and implement an investigation of soil and groundwater in those areas in addition to sampling of stormwater and wastewater treatment plant influent and effluent where applicable.  Work Plans were due by June 2, 2021.  California has drinking water notification levels for PFOA of 5.1 ppt and PFOS of 6.5 ppt and response levels for PFOA of 10 ppt and PFOS of 40 ppt.

According to the State Water Board, the Order to bulk fuel storage terminals and refineries to conduct a PFAS site investigation is part of a statewide effort to evaluate PFAS groundwater and surface water impacts and to obtain a preliminary understanding of PFAS concentrations at facilities across the state.  The State Water Board has previously directed other dischargers identified as potential PFAS sources to perform PFAS testing. California is assembling a database of PFAS results from a variety of sources statewide that currently includes data from water system wells, military cleanup sites, other cleanup program sites, airports, industrial facilities, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants.

The results of the PFAS investigations at the bulk terminals and refineries should provide interesting data on the extent and variability of PFAS contamination from AFFF and the other PFAS-containing materials handled at these bulk terminals and refineries. The data could also identify other sites not within the scope of the Order that are a source of PFAS.  It remains to be seen whether other states will follow California’s lead and require state-wide PFAS investigations at bulk terminals, refineries and other sites suspected to be sources of PFAS.