Ineffectiveness of ultrasound at low frequency for treating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in sewage sludge

By Weilan Zhang, Quan Zhang, and Yanna Liang
August 4, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.131748

Concerns have been raised about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in sewage sludge given the urgent need of finding suitable disposal methods for sludge. In this study, we evaluated the effect of ultrasonication on PFAS changes in sewage sludge. It was revealed that although ultrasonication at 20 kHz increased the soluble chemical oxygen demand (SCOD) of treated sewage sludge, this technique was ineffective for degrading perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) and their precursors. Ultrasonic treatment for longer time (>15 min) led to concentration increase of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), and perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) in the liquid phase, possibly due to their release from disrupted sludge flocs during cavitation. Adding permanganate (10 mM) to the ultrasonic system could also enhance the disruption of sludge particles, resulting in higher concentrations of PFOA and PFHxA in the solid phase and PFOA, PFHpA, PFHxA, and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) in the liquid phase. Overall, ultrasonic pretreatment at 20 kHz and 0.7 W/mL is unlikely to remove PFAS from sewage sludge. Instead, it could increase the risk of PFAS pollution upon final sludge disposal. Effective treatment technologies are thus demanded if PFAS in sludge are regulated.


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