State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project Id: 2010MD207B
Title: Source Characterization of Contamination by Poly- and Per-fluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) in Maryland Waterways
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 2/01/2010
End Date: 1/31/2011
Congressional District: 5
Focus Categories: Non Point Pollution, Surface Water, Toxic Substances
Keywords: Perfluorochemicals, source apportionment, nonpoint pollution, wastewater, urban inputs
Principal Investigator: Liu, Jinxia (Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)
Federal Funds: $ 26,895
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 54,175
Abstract: Poly- and per-fluorinated alkyl chemicals (PFCs) have been emerging as global environmental contaminants and in some areas of the United States water resources have been negatively impacted with significant changes to be implemented to drinking water supply and groundwater recharge practice. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctane carboxylate (PFOA) have been listed as drinking water contaminant candidates by U.S. EPA and strict drinking water standards have been proposed. Although industrial activities are major point pollution sources, non-point urban and suburban sources are especially significant in dissemination of these persistent and toxic chemicals because of decadal usage of PFCs in consumer products. No data is yet available regarding to sources, loads and spatial profiles of PFC contamination in Maryland Waterways heavily influenced by rapid urban development. The environmental behaviors of PFCs are very different from other known halogenated organic contaminants due to their unique properties imparted by strong C-F bonding. Their high solubility and great mobility determine water columns as major sinks rather than sediments. Past studies have shown very diverse contamination profiles across various geographic regions suggesting complex sources and transport mechanisms.

In lieu of the complexity of PFC contamination and lack of any data in Maryland waters, the project is proposed to provide broad-scale baseline levels of PFCs in Maryland waterways in most indicative areas. The objectives of the project are to identify the general pattern of PFC contamination in the region, assess the relative inputs from different point and nonpoint sources, and evaluate the contributions from fluorotelomer compounds to total PFC loads. Water samples from all designated sites will be collected for measurement of eighteen PFC chemicals using state-of-art analytical techniques, and related water quality data will be generated. The work will specifically identify PFCs originated from two different chemistries and manufacturing processes using process-specific marker compounds, which were not performed prior because of poor knowledge of marker compounds.

The data generated in the project is needed for the State of Maryland to be prepared for regulations that US EPA will put into place in the future to tackle PFC contamination issue. The approach of using process-specific marker compounds has important implication for future monitoring efforts across the nation and will be especially useful for making regulatory decisions regarding to continuous use of fluorotelomer compounds. In addition to provide much needed data on current status of micropollutants in Maryland waters, the project also has the potential to impact research areas related to water and wastewater treatment, biosolids land application, storm water management, ground water recharge and fish consumption advisory. These areas are all facing the challenge of dealing with new suites of emerging organic contaminants, including PFCs.

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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