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Navigating the Path to a Rewarding Career in PFAS Remediation

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as “forever chemicals,” have emerged as a significant environmental concern due to their persistence and potential health risks. According to the Center for Disease Control, “many PFAS, including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are a concern because they do not break down in the environment, can move through soils and contaminate drinking water sources, build up (bioaccumulate) in fish and wildlife.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun rolling out more rules and regulations around the remediation of PFAS over recent years, which has fueled a growing demand for skilled professionals equipped to address this challenge. Manufacturers working with these forever chemicals must get ahead of these regulations as quickly as possible, not only to avoid penalties and lawsuits, but to lead the industry in responsible operations.

Due to this rising demand, individuals with a background in geology and engineering are uniquely equipped to help shepherd these industries into a future of responsible remediation, especially if they have experience working with other contaminants. In this blog we’ll delve into possible career paths that lead to excelling in this field.


Educational Background and Entry-Level Positions

A strong foundation in geology or engineering is essential for a successful career in PFAS remediation. Entry-level positions in PFAS remediation typically involve field work, data collection, and laboratory analysis. These roles provide hands-on experience with PFAS contamination and the remediation process. As individuals gain experience, they can advance to positions with greater responsibility, such as project management, regulatory compliance, and technical consulting.


Career Progression and Specialization

Advancement in a PFAS remediation career is often accompanied by specialization in specific areas. These specializations may include:

  • Site Assessment and Characterization: Assessing the nature and extent of PFAS contamination is crucial for developing effective remediation strategies.
  • Remedial Design and Engineering: Designing and implementing effective remediation technologies, such as pump-and-treat systems and bioremediation, is essential for removing PFAS from the environment.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring compliance with environmental regulations related to PFAS is critical for protecting human health and the environment.
  • Risk Assessment and Communication: Evaluating the potential health risks associated with PFAS contamination and effectively communicating these risks to stakeholders are essential for managing public concerns.


Stand Out with Certifications and Licenses

Certifications and licenses can significantly enhance one’s credibility and marketability in the PFAS remediation field, and in some cases are required to do the job. Relevant certifications include:

  • Professional Engineer (PE) or Professional Geologist (PG): These licenses are critical to really going far in this career, demonstrating advanced expertise in engineering or geology, and can open up senior-level opportunities. For example, a licensed PE allows you to sign off on certain projects that a non-licensed engineer cannot. Having that ability to put a stamp of approval on a project will make a candidate stand out big time.
  • Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER): This certification demonstrates competence in handling hazardous materials, including PFAS.
  • Licensed Site Professional (LSP): This license is required to oversee and manage the remediation of contaminated sites in certain states.


Additional Considerations

  • Work on EPA-Funded Projects: while this isn’t something you may have full control over, gaining experience on leading-edge projects puts candidates in a position to stand out amongst the competition.
  • Continuous Learning: Staying informed about emerging PFAS research, technologies, and regulations is essential for maintaining a competitive edge.
  • Making connections: Building professional relationships with colleagues, industry experts, and potential employers can open doors to new opportunities. It can be as simple as going onto LinkedIn and commenting on posts of industry folks who are talking about PFAS and other remediation topics. You can meet people through LinkedIn or at networking events to figure out who is spearheading the next big thing in remediation and develop meaningful professional relationships with them.


The Rewards of a Career in PFAS Remediation

A career in PFAS remediation offers a unique blend of environmental stewardship, technical expertise, and personal fulfillment. As the demand for PFAS remediation expertise continues to grow, individuals in this field can enjoy promising career prospects and competitive compensation. By pursuing a strong educational foundation, gaining hands-on experience, and acquiring relevant certifications, individuals can embark on a rewarding and impactful career in this rapidly growing field.



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