Concentrations and patterns of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in a river and three drinking water treatment plants near and far from a major production source.

Research paper by Virginie V Boiteux, Xavier X Dauchy, Cristina C Bach, Adeline A Colin, Jessica J Hemard, Véronique V Sagres, Christophe C Rosin, Jean-François JF Munoz

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 25 Jan '17Published in: Science of the Total Environment


Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are emerging contaminants that have been detected in the environment, biota and humans. Drinking water is a route of exposure for populations using water contaminated by PFAS discharges. This research entailed measuring concentrations, mass flows and investigating the fate of dozens PFASs in a river receiving effluents from a fluorochemical manufacturing facility. To measure the total concentration of perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acid (PFCA) precursors, an oxidative conversion method was used. Several dozen samples were collected in the river (water and sediment), in drinking water resources and at different treatment steps on four sampling dates. One PFCA and three fluorotelomers (FTs) were detected up to 62km downstream from the manufacturing facility. 6:2 Fluorotelomer sulfonamide alkylbetaine (6:2 FTAB) was the predominant PFAS with a mass flow of 3830g/day 5.2km downstream from the facility. At all sampling points, PFAS concentrations in sediment were quite low (<6ng/g dw). Five of the 11 investigated wells showed detectable concentrations of PFASs. Interestingly, their profile patterns were different from those observed in the river, suggesting a transformation of PFCA precursors in the sediments of alluvial groundwater. Conventional drinking water treatments (aeration, sand or granular activated carbon filtration, ozonation or chlorination) did not efficiently remove PFASs. Furthermore, an increase in concentration of certain PFASs was observed after ozonation, suggesting that some FTs such as 6:2 FTAB can break down. Only nanofiltration was able to remove all the analyzed PFASs. In the treated water, total PFAS concentrations never exceeded 60ng/L. The oxidative conversion method revealed the presence of unidentified PFCA precursors in the river. Therefore, 18 to 77% of the total PFCA content after oxidation consisted of unidentified chemical species. In the treated water, these percentages ranged from 0 to 29%, relatively and reassuringly low values.

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