Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020GA115B

Per-/Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Two Wastewater Treatment Plants in Georgia: Significance of Precursor Transformation by Biological Treatment Processes

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,000

Principal Investigators: Ching-Hua Huang

Abstract: Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are anthropogenic chemicals heavily used in household products and are found in widespread contamination in the environment. PFASs are a significant concern due to their persistent and bioaccumulative nature and potential harmful health effects. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are point sources of PFAS pollution due to their general ineffectiveness in removing these compounds. Moreover, the concentrations of persistent perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) may increase after the biological treatment processes at WWTPs owing to transformation of perfluorinated precursors. The fate of PFASs in WWTPs will depend on the types and concentrations of precursors in raw wastewater and the redox conditions in the biological treatment systems, hence affecting the levels of discharge. However, significant knowledge gaps currently exist regarding this issue.The overall objective of this study is to elucidate the impacts of the biological treatment processes on the fate of PFASs in WWTPs in Georgia. The study will investigate the impacts of commonly used biological treatment processes including activated sludge (AS) and membrane bioreactor (MBR) processes by conducting sampling analysis at two full-scale WWTPs in Georgia. The research objective will be achieved by pursuing three specific aims:•Aim 1 – Investigate the occurrence and seasonal variation of a comprehensive suite of PFAAs and precursors in each of the two WWTPs before and after the biological processes.•Aim 2 – Evaluate the effects of different redox conditions (anoxic, anaerobic, and aerobic conditions) of the bioreactors on the biotransformation of precursors and the impacted concentrations and distribution of PFAAs.•Aim 3 – Assess and identify the key influencing parameters (i.e., the properties of precursors/PFAAs/wastewater/sludges, the biological process operations, and seasonal effects (e.g. temperature and rainfall)) that affect the fate of PFASs and precursors in the WWTPs.The results will significantly improve the understanding of the impacts of biotransformation of precursors in WWTPs on the fate of PFASs and facilitate developing control strategies to improve the water quality of discharges from WWTPs. The project will also provide significant education and research experience for environmental engineering and science students.