Thermal desorption as a high removal remediation technique for soils contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)

By M Sörengård, A-S Lindh, and L Ahrens
June 30, 2020
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234476

Soils contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are an important source for impacting drinking water delivery systems and surface water bodies world-wide, posing an urgent risk to human health and environmental quality. However, few treatment techniques have been tested for PFAS-contaminated soil hotspots. This study investigated the possibility of thermal desorption as a possible technique to remediate soils contaminated with multiple PFASs. Two fortified soils (∑9PFAS ≈ 4 mg kg-1) and one field-contaminated soil (∑9PFAS ≈ 0.025 mg kg-1) were subjected to a 75-min thermal treatment at temperatures ranging from 150 to 550°C. Soil concentrations of PFASs showed a significant decrease at 350°C, with the ∑9PFAS concentration decreasing by, on average, 43% and 79% in the fortified and field contaminated soils, respectively. At 450°C, >99% of PFASs were removed from the fortified soils, while at 550°C the fraction removed ranged between 71 and 99% for the field contaminated soil. In the field contaminated soil, PFAS classes with functional groups of sulfonates (PFSAs) and sulfonamides (FOSAs) showed higher removal than the perfluoroalkyl carboxylates (PFCAs). Thus thermal desorption has the potential to remove a wide variety of PFASs from soil, although more studies are needed to investigate the cost-effectiveness, creation of transformation products, and air-phase vacuum filtration techniques.

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