Today the Environment Agency released its latest update on the potential environmental impact of the Buncefield incident, which is published regularly on its website.

This update reflects the latest analysis of Perfluorooctane Sulphonate (PFOS) in groundwater, the most recent which was received today.


Of the 9 monitoring site results received this week, analysis of PFOS showed:

·         6 samples below the limit of detection -  0.1 micrograms per litre

·         2 samples of 0.13 micrograms per litre and 0.20 micrograms per litre – which are below the limit of 3 micrograms per litre for drinking water set by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI)

·         1 of 4.58 micrograms per litre. Another sample of 5.9 micrograms per litre, however further analysis at the same site showed a reading of 0.20 micrograms per litre


“Following an incident like Buncefield, where 680,000 litres of fire-fighting foam - some of which contained PFOS - was released to control the blaze and protect the community, we would expect to see elevated levels of PFOS in the environment,” said Robert Runcie, Regional Director of the Thames Region of the Environment Agency.


“However, these results are variable and inconsistent and therefore may be unreliable. We are investigating further.


“I stress that these are not samples of drinking water and these results do not mean there is PFOS above the DWI limit in the public water supply or in people’s taps. We have immediately passed this information onto Three Valleys Water Company and DWI for their information and action,” Mr Runcie said.


The Environment Agency does not monitor drinking water or set limits for PFOS in drinking water, this is for the water company and Drinking Water Inspectorate, respectively, to do.


“The Environment Agency is undertaking ongoing monitoring to establish the extent and impact of groundwater contamination and also groundwater flow. We are arranging for new boreholes to be installed to provide further information,” Mr Runcie said.


PFOS and other contaminants associated with fire-fighting foams have not been routinely monitored in the environment before. We are now commencing a broader study to see whether any background levels might exist elsewhere in England and Wales.


PFOS are a family of chemicals that are generally used in products designed to repel dirt, grease and water – including carpet treatments, sprays for leather and clothing, paints and cleaning products.