Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017AL184B

Utilizing Biogeochemical Cycling Processes for the Remediation/Treatment of Persistent Perfluorinated Chemical (PFCs) in Soil and Groundwater

Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $24,976 Total Non-Federal Funds: $49,952

Principal Investigators: Geoffrey Tick

Abstract: J. Identification and Statement of the major regional water problem. Emerging contaminants (ECs) are a class of pollutants that threaten human and environmental health, and pose a risk to the safety of groundwater, surface water, and drinking water. Within the last several years, emerging contaminants perfluorochemicals (PFCs), specifically perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), havebeen detected in various water supplies throughout the U.S. and in Alabama. PFCs are of particular concern because they are highly toxic, bioaccumulate, do not degrade readily in the environment, and are known to be endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic. Not only are these chemicals highly toxic to humans, presence in the environment can adversely impact biota and aquatic ecosystem function. Therefore, understanding the transport mechanisms and degradation pathways through biogeochemical cycling of such compounds within soil, groundwater, and various water systems will be critical to developing effective remediation/treatment techniques(physical and biological) to attenuate these compounds in various water supplies (groundwater, surface water, and water treatment facilities) and the environment. PFOA and PFOS, among other toxic compounds, have been recently discovered in groundwater and surface water resources (i.e. Tennessee River and Wheeler Reservoir) in northern (Decatur) Alabama (Pillion, 2015). There is currently little to no research on understanding the physical and biological processes that act to reduce, transform, and/or transport these toxic chemicals in the environment. As mentioned, these chemicals pose significant health risks to humans and aquatic ecosystems, via exposure to drinking water and diet (fish, water fowl, etc.). There are no regulatory limits or published health standards for these chemicals and therefore wastewater treatment and water-treatment distribution facilities are not required to monitor or treat for such chemicals. Furthermore, conventional approaches for treating such chemicals are infeasible due to their limited degradability, high mobility, and limited attenuation in the environment, even over large time frames. Therefore, it is critical that novel remediation/treatment strategies be developed based on a rigorous understanding to the physical and biotic processes and conditions that can contribute to effective attenuation of these chemicals in our water resources and environment. The development and application of new remediation/treatment technologies will be essential for water utility agencies, wastewater treatment, water distribution, surface-water and groundwater restoration, and environmental mitigation. As these chemicals become more prevalent in our environment, the health impacts become better known, and these chemicals are subject to more strict regulation, understanding the processes and treatment strategies that are most effective for a particular system will both decrease risk and exposure and improve cleanup cost-effectiveness for such chemicals.