Apr 15, 2022

Research Studies PFAS Coming out of Wastewater Treatment Plants

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

drinking water

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

Matt Reeves, Associate Professor of Hydrogeology at WMU and colleagues Ross Helmer and Daniel Cassidy detected more PFAS in the discharged water from wastewater treatment plants, than the water going into the plant, reported Michigan Radio.

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

The study states that: 

“Diverse chemical signatures were observed for leachates collected from 19 landfills (mostly type II municipal) with the dominant PFAS ranging from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) to shorter-chained compounds, perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).” 

According to Reeves, it is likely because undetectable PFAS entering the plant are usually subjected to aeration and oxygenation inside the plant. Reeves adds that more research is necessary and the health effects of different PFAS will need further study.

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

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

Read related content about PFAS:

expand_less