Assessment of PFAS fate, transport, and treatment inhibition associated with a simulated AFFF release within a WASTEWATER treatment plant
By Dana Gonzalez, Kyle Thompson, Oscar Quiñones, Eric Dickenson, and Charles Bott
August 13, 2020
Sequencing batch reactors (SBRs) were operated for 36 days to simulate the potential wastewater treatment impacts as well as fate and transport of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that could be associated with a release of alcohol resistant aqueous film forming foam (AR-AFFF) from on-site methanol fire suppression systems. The results of this study indicate that two days of exposure to AFFF were associated with small reductions in mixed liquor solids content and nitrification rates. No impacts on denitrification or biological phosphorus removal were observed. The addition of AFFF was associated with increases in 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate (6:2 FTS) in influent, effluent, and solids samples in the SBR. The following biotransformation pathway is proposed: an unidentified fluorotelomer precursor quickly degraded to 6:2 FTS, which then slowly degraded to several identified degradation intermediates and terminal, short-chain perfluorocarboxylic acid products. Data for 6:2 FTS, which was used as a proxy for AFFF-associated PFAS, were extrapolated to estimate that a removal of approximately 70% of AFFF via effluent and solids wasting would occur after 4 days at a full-scale treatment plant. This information can be used to better understand potential impacts on downstream processes, including potable reuse and biosolids production.