Treatment stores

Research Studies on PFAS Leaving Wastewater Treatment Plants

The study consisted of an analysis of 171 contaminated sites in Michigan by source release indicating four dominant sources of PFAS

New research from Western Michigan University shows that wastewater treatment plants could have a negative effect on pollution from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Matt Reeves, associate professor of hydrogeology at WMU and his colleagues Ross Helmer and Daniel Cassidy detected more PFAS in water discharged from sewage treatment plants than in water entering the plant, reported Michigan Radio.

The study consisted of an analysis of 171 sites contaminated in Michigan by source release indicating four dominant sources of PFAS: landfills, aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), metal plating, and automotive/metal stamping. These represent 75% of the contamination.

The study indicates that:

“Various chemical signatures were observed for leachate collected from 19 landfills (mostly municipal Type II) with the dominant PFAS ranging from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) to shorter chain compounds , perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).

According to Reeves, this is likely because undetectable PFAS entering the plant are generally subject to aeration and oxygenation inside the plant. Reeves adds that more research is needed and that the health effects of different PFASs will need to be studied further.

“They can cause some of these compounds that we can’t detect in the inflowing water. It can transform and change the molecular structure into some of the compounds that we can see,” Reeves said, Michigan Radio reported.

Michigan has some of the strictest drinking water and groundwater standards in the country, with a cleaning criteria are 8 parts per trillion for PFOA and 16 parts per trillion for PFOS.

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