Management, Analysis, Removal, Fate and Transport of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in Water

Jun 5, 2019

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs), also commonly referred to as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), are anthropogenic chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products. There are not currently any federal regulations limiting PFASs in water, but the EPA is considering whether to establish Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFASs in drinking water. In May 2016, EPA established drinking water health advisory levels for PFOS and PFOA of 0.07 µg/L based on lifetime exposure concerns for sensitive subpopulations. Six PFASs were included on EPA’s 3rd Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, and of those, PFOA and PFOS were the most frequently detected. PFASs have been detected throughout the United States, in both groundwater and surface water systems.

Conventional treatment at wastewater and drinking water treatment plants is ineffective at removing PFASs from water. Granular activated carbon and anion exchange can remove many PFASs but are less effective at removing shorter chain PFASs. Nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) appear to be effective, but NF needs to be validated at full-scale, RO is costly, and disposal or treatment of the membrane concentrate stream is a consideration for both. This Focus Area will investigate innovative treatment options, the fate of PFASs through treatment, and the management of PFASs in general to prevent their entry into water supplies.


Research Area Objectives

  • Analyze emerging and unidentified PFAS
  • Assess the vulnerability of waters to PFAS and identify sources and hotspots
  • Evaluate management alternatives for PFAS
  • Increase understanding of the behavior, fate, and transport of PFAS in treatment
  • Recommend effective treatment and removal strategies for PFAS


Research Area Project Timeline and Value

Investigation of Treatment Alternatives for Short-Chain PFASs

  • Timeline: 2018 - 2020
  • Total Project Value: TBD
  • Research Area Objectives: Management, Treatment & Removal

Cumulative Project Value for Research Area: TBD


Projects Funded Outside of the Research Area Program that meet a Research Area Objective

Evaluation and Life Cycle Comparison of Ex-Situ Treatment Technologies for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances(PFASs) in Groundwater

  • Year Completed: Ongoing
  • Funding Program: DoD Grant
  • RA Objectives: Management, Treatment & Removal

Treatment Mitigation Strategies for Per- and Polyflourinated Chemicals

  • Year Completed: 2016
  • Funding Program: EDCs Initiative
  • RA Objectives: Management, Treatment & Removal

Project Status

Year Initiated: 2018

Year Completed: Ongoing


Advisory Committee Members

  • Andy Eaton, Eurofins Eaton Analytical, Inc.
  • Chuck Hertz, Aqua America, Inc.
  • Detlef Knappe, North Carolina State University
  • Ian Overton, Water Research Australia Limited
  • Erik Rosenfeldt, Hazen and Sawyer
  • Tom Speth, EPA
  • Chris Tadanier, Black & Veatch
  • Carel Vandermeyden, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority
  • Steve Via, American Water Works Association
  • Ruth Marfil-Vega, American Water