Publication - FOI/EIR release

Monitoring, management and control of PFAS: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Published:
3 Aug 2021
Monitoring, management and control of PFAS: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202100220283
Date received: 4 Jul 2021
Date responded: 30 Jul 2021
Information requested

You asked for information on how the monitoring, management and control of PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is being done to protect Scotland’s population. Where are elevated concentrations/levels of PFAS present in Scotland’s environment?

Response

As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of
Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Attached is a copy of some of the information requested, and some of the information requested is available from the following sources:

An exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exception is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception.

An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to some the information you have requested because it is internal communication about media coverage and ongoing analysis of PFAS. 

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that issue while it is still under discussion and development.

Please note, with regards to the document entitled ‘Overview of per- and polyfluoro substances (PFAS) in the UK – report’ (i) it was produced while we were still in the EU, and (ii) the definition of PFAS adopted is different to the definition recently adopted by the OECD and the EU states preparing their
restriction dossier.

Please also note, with regards to the document entitled ‘Copy of perfluoro water screen_2018’ SEPA carried out investigative monitoring in 22 Scottish rivers for nine PFAS chemicals over three months in 2018. Environmental quality standards (EQS) are only available for PFOS (perfluorooctane sulphonate), which was included in this analysis. PFOS has an EQS of 9.1 ug/kg, to be measured in fish, which is estimated to be equivalent to a water concentration of 0.65 ng/l. Both these values are listed in Scottish River Basin Management Planning Directions. Based on average results, ten of the 22 sites monitored by SEPA were above this threshold water concentration. However, the PFOS equivalent water EQS is now thought to be an under estimate (too low a value) for a number of technical reasons.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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