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Journal Article (Peer-Reviewed)
Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances in wastewater: Significance of unknown precursors, manufacturing shifts, and likely AFFF impacts. Water Research . SFEI Contribution No. 780.2016.
In late 2014, wastewater effluent samples were collected from eight treatment plants that discharge to San Francisco (SF) Bay in order to assess poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) currently released from municipal and industrial sources. In addition to direct measurement of twenty specific PFAS analytes, the total concentration of perfluoroalkyl acid (PFAA) precursors was also indirectly measured by adapting a previously developed oxidation assay. Effluent from six municipal treatment plants contained similar amounts of total PFASs, with highest median concentrations of PFHxA (24 ng/L), followed by PFOA (23 ng/L), PFBA (19 ng/L), and PFOS (15 ng/L). Compared to SF Bay municipal wastewater samples collected in 2009, the short chain perfluorinated carboxylates PFBA and PFHxA rose significantly in concentration. Effluent samples from two treatment plants contained much higher levels of PFASs: over two samplings, wastewater from one municipal plant contained an average of 420 ng/L PFOS and wastewater from an airport industrial treatment plant contained 560 ng/L PFOS, 390 ng/L 6:2 FtS, 570 ng/L PFPeA, and 500 ng/L PFHxA. The elevated levels observed in effluent samples from these two plants are likely related to aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) sources impacting their influent; PFASs attributable to both current use and discontinued AFFF formulations were observed. Indirectly measured PFAA precursor compounds accounted for 33%–63% of the total molar concentration of PFASs across all effluent samples and the PFAA precursors indicated by the oxidation assay were predominately short-chained. PFAS levels in SF Bay effluent samples reflect the manufacturing shifts towards shorter chained PFASs while also demonstrating significant impacts from localized usage of AFFF.
Multi-box mass balance model of PFOA and PFOS in different regions of San Francisco Bay. Chemosphere 252 . SFEI Contribution No. 986.2020.
We present a model to predict the long-term distribution and concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) in estuaries comprising multiple intercommunicated sub-embayments. To that end, a mass balance model including rate constants and time-varying water inputs was designed to calculate levels of these compounds in water and sediment for every sub-embayment. Subsequently, outflows and tidal water exchanges were used to interconnect the different regions of the estuary. To calculate plausible risks to population, outputs of the model were used as inputs in a previously designed model to simulate concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in a sport fish species (Cymatogaster aggregata). The performance of the model was evaluated by applying it to the specific case of San Francisco Bay, (California, USA), using 2009 sediment and water sampled concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in North, Central and South regions. Concentrations of these compounds in the Bay displayed exponential decreasing trends, but with different shapes depending on region, compound, and compartment assessed. Nearly stable PFOA concentrations were reached after 50 years, while PFOS needed close to 500 years to stabilize in sediment and fish. Afterwards, concentrations stabilize between 4 and 23 pg/g in sediment, between 0.02 and 44 pg/L in water, and between 7 and 104 pg/g wet weight in fish, depending on compound and region. South Bay had the greatest final concentrations of pollutants, regardless of compartment. Fish consumption is safe for most scenarios, but due to model uncertainty, limitations in monthly intake could be established for North and South Bay catches.