Virtual Forum on PFAS in San Francisco Bay Fish, February 4th, 2022
Thank you for joining environmental and public health agencies, representatives of tribes and local fishing communities, and the general public to discuss PFAS sources and the contamination of San Francisco Bay sport fish. This forum sought to build consensus for next steps to protect everyone who catches and eats fish from the Bay.
Members from local tribal, African American and Asian fishing communities were able to share community perspectives on PFAS exposure from Bay fish, alongside presentations from scientists and policy makers working on PFAS. The dialogue that began at this meeting is an important first step in working together to envision solutions to address this issue.
Presentation slides, related materials, and an agenda can be found on the forum page.
This event was made possible thanks to funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Satterberg Foundation, and the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, with assistance from the Green Science Policy Institute and the Water Foundation.
PFAS in San Francisco Bay
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a broad class of fluorine-rich specialty chemicals. More than 4,700 PFAS are registered for use in consumer, commercial and industrial applications. Long-chain PFAS, such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have been shown to be highly persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, leading to phase-out of production in the US. Short-chain PFAS and a range of polyfluoroalkyl compounds have emerged as alternatives, though they have received relatively little study compared to long-chain PFAS. Still, these replacement compounds are highly persistent and expected to accumulate in the environment. Further, potential mixture and additive effects also pose a risk to human and ecological health.
The RMP has monitored PFAS in the San Francisco Bay for over a decade, and the class has been identified as a moderate concern according to the RMP’s tiered, risk-based framework that guides monitoring and management actions on emerging contaminants in the Bay. A detailed synthesis of the RMP PFAS work can be found here as well as the most up-to-date CECs strategy including PFAS here.
PFAS in Bay Area Biota
PFAS are ubiquitous in Bay biota including fish, bird eggs, and harbor seals. Concentrations of PFOS in Bay harbor seals and bird eggs in 2004 and 2006 were some of the highest detected globally (here). Continued bird egg monitoring on a triennial basis has indicated decreasing levels in South Bay birds, though this still may pose a risk to hatching success (here).
In addition, sport fish are monitored on a recurring five-year basis, with the most recent study showing concentrations of PFAS, particularly in South Bay fish, exceeding thresholds that have been established by other states for the development of consumption advisories. SFEI is working with local community groups and stakeholders to build consensus on next steps to protect fishing communities (here).
PFAS in Bay Area Stormwater and Wastewater
Stormwater and wastewater are two pathways for PFAS to enter the Bay. Studies of Bay Area stormwater and wastewater indicate that a significant fraction of the PFAS discharged are of unknown chemical composition.
A recent regional study of influent, effluent, and biosolids on behalf of the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (BACWA) detected various PFAS, though these concentrations were generally below many household consumer products. Further study is ongoing to determine potential sources of PFAS contamination within Region 2.
PFAS in Bay Area Surface Water and Sediment
Surface water and sediment have been studied previously, with several PFAS detected. Further examination of PFAS in both media is ongoing as a part of the RMP’s Status and Trends monitoring. Monitoring data provides critical information concerning the fate of PFAS in the Bay, and can inform predictive modeling efforts.
Programs and Focus Areas:
Clean Water Program
Bay Regional Monitoring Program
Contaminants of Emerging Concern
Design and Communications