Wastewater Treatment Lagoons: Local Pathways of Perfluoroalkyl Acids and Brominated Flame Retardants to the Arctic Environment

By Sarah B Gewurtz, Paula Guerra, Min Gu Kim, Frankie Jones, Jane Challen-Urbanic, Steven Teslic, and Shirley-Anne Smyth
May 5, 2020
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b06902

Concentrations of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and “Novel” brominated flame retardants (NBFRs) were determined in lagoons processing wastewater from two high-Arctic and two sub-Arctic of Canada communities to assess the importance of local anthropogenic sources. ΣPFAAs in influent and effluent of the Arctic lagoons were within the lower end of the range of concentrations previously observed in Canadian temperate WWTPs. In comparison, influent and effluent concentrations of ΣPBDEs and NBFRs were significantly greater (p < 0.05) in high-Arctic lagoons compared to sub-Arctic and temperate plants. The surprisingly elevated concentrations of PBDEs and NBFRs in high-Arctic lagoons were probably related to high organic matter found in Arctic wastewater due to lower consumption of potable water leading to less dilution compared to temperate regions. Although PFAAs also sorb to solids, the wastewater samples were filtered prior to analysis of PFAAs (but not PBDEs and NBFRs), which likely reduced the impacts of solids on the results for PFAAs. Based on an extrapolation of per capita mass effluent loadings of the four Arctic lagoons, mass loadings to the Arctic of Canada via WWTP effluent were estimated as 1,405 g/year and 549 g/year for ΣPFAAs and ΣPBDEs, respectively.

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