Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2021CT003PFAS

Quantifying PFAS Fate and Biotransport in Stream-to-riparian Food Webs

Institute: Connecticut
USGS Grant Number:
Year Established: 2021 Start Date: 2021-09-01 End Date: 2024-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $249,631 Total Non-Federal Funds: $249,631

Principal Investigators: Jessica Brandt

Abstract: Following PFAS contamination of water resources, aquatic food webs exert substantial control over PFAS fate and transport, determining the levels and mixtures of PFAS compounds that reach receptor species or habitats of concern. Aquatic insects that emerge from freshwater systems at the end of their lifecycle play an especially important role as ecological subsidies to adjacent terrestrial predators and simultaneously represent substantial vectors of water-based contaminants. To date, there has been little research on PFAS trophodynamics in linked stream and riparian food webs yet this information is needed to inform where along PFAS transport pathways monitoring and remediation efforts will be most protective. The proposed project involves a robust evaluation of how PFAS concentrations and mixture compositions are altered by the food-web mediated processes of bioaccumulation, trophic transfer, metamorphosis, and emergence. Through intensive food web sampling at four streams in the Farmington River watershed (CT), we will (1) characterize patterns of PFAS bioaccumulation and trophic transfer in stream food webs; (2) quantify emergent aquatic insect-mediated PFAS transfer to riparian habitats; and (3) develop an ecological model for aquatic-terrestrial PFAS fate in stream ecosystems for use by researchers and resource managers of PFAS-impacted freshwater systems. This work substantially leverages ongoing and prior work by our group on groundwater-supplied contaminants, including PFAS, to Farmington River watershed surface waters. The proposed project aligns with PFAS priorities and data needs for Connecticut and the regional northeast where PFAS are ubiquitous contaminants of concern associated with municipal and industrial waste streams. Our work will complement ongoing PFAS monitoring efforts and inform the state’s recently adopted PFAS Action Plan and will inform the need for groundwater source monitoring and protective aquatic life criteria. All data and model code will be publicly released to USGS ScienceBase and our results will be shared with a broad audience through a story map developed in collaboration with the Center for Land Use Education & Research at the University of Connecticut. This research involves training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students as well as collaboration with a USGS scientist. The proposed project also supports an early-career PI and two female investigators.