News | September 18, 2019

EPA Awards Purdue University Nearly $900,000 To Research Potential Environmental Impacts Of PFAS Substances In Waste Streams

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Purdue University a $899,976 grant to develop methods to decrease per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) concentrations in both municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent and sludge. The university’s study will determine the technical and economic feasibility of using a specific two-treatment approach consisting of nanofiltration followed by electrochemical oxidation.

In addition to the Purdue grant, EPA awarded seven other PFAS grants this week totaling approximately $6M. The grants will fund research to expand the understanding of the environmental risks posed by PFAS in waste streams and identify practical approaches to manage the potential impacts as PFAS enters the environment.

“These grants will help improve EPA’s understanding of the characteristics and impacts of PFAS in waste streams and enhance our efforts to address PFAS,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s announcement is just one of the many ways we are delivering on the PFAS Action Plan – the most comprehensive, multi-media research and risk communication plan ever issued by the agency to address an emerging chemical of concern.

“Region 5 and our partner states have continually been on the forefront of the agency’s battle with PFAS,” said Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp. “With this grant to Purdue University, EPA is, once again, carrying through on our commitment to the American people to protect human health and the environment.”

"We are excited to be part of the EPA STAR initiative to increase our knowledge and facilitate PFAS reduction in the environment associated with waste management,” said Linda S. Lee with Purdue University’s Dept. of Agronomy. “Our particular focus targets PFAS reduction in biosolids, which includes treatment systems within and after water resource recovery facility processes."

Taking concrete actions to address PFAS is one of EPA’s highest priorities. EPA’s recently released PFAS Action Plan identifies both short-term solutions for addressing PFAS chemicals and long-term strategies that will help provide the tools and technologies states, tribes and local communities need to clean up sites and provide clean, safe drinking water to their residents.

In addition to Purdue University, the other seven recipients receiving this funding through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program include:

  • New York State Department of Health - Health Research Inc., Menands, N.Y. – to build a dataset by analyzing samples from approximately 150 landfills in the State of New York. This data will be used to understand the types and concentrations of PFAS that are found in and around landfills, as well as the key landfill attributes that contribute to release of PFAS.
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C. – to collect landfill gas (LFG) samples from over 400 landfills across the U.S. to determine if PFAS from LFG is a significant source of PFAS released into the atmosphere.
  • University of Florida, Gainsville, Fla. – to study the role of waste type, management strategies, and treatment methods on the occurrence, source and fate of PFAS in landfills. The study will identify the sources of PFAS compounds in the current US domestic waste stream using laboratory-scale batch leaching, and landfill simulation studies.
  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. – to examine the chemical process for the destruction of PFAS in leachate and groundwater. This project will assess degradation kinetics, test hypothesized process modifications, and conduct trials of leachate treatment.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas – to investigate the feasibility of electron beam technology for the destruction of PFAS compounds during the remediation of groundwater, wastewater, sewage sludges, and soils.
  • Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas – to identify and quantify the occurrence of PFAS in landfill leachate, investigate the fate of PFAS passing through typical landfill liner systems, and test the ability to break down PFAS in landfill leachate using soundwaves.
  • University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D. – to develop practical strategies for removing legacy and emerging PFAS from leachate and groundwater by studying the adsorption, desorption, and biodegradation of PFAS and precursor compounds in landfills.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. PFAS are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products. Due to widespread use and persistence in the environment, most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS. EPA continues to evaluate the potential risk of these compounds to human health and the environment, but there is evidence that chronic exposure above specific levels to certain PFAS may lead to adverse health effects.

PFAS have been found in solid waste, landfills and surrounding environmental media (soil, groundwater), leachates, landfill gas, wastewater effluents, and biosolids. However, current treatment options are limited, as many conventional treatment methods are ineffective. In funding these projects, EPA is specifically supporting research to identify or develop innovative methods to treat or manage PFAS before it enters the environment to minimize its risks to humans and ecosystems. The resulting data will help researchers understand the occurrence, fate and transport of PFAS and identify methods or technologies to better manage PFAS-containing waste.

For more information on EPA’s PFAS Action Plan: https://www.epa.gov/pfas

For more information on EPA’s STAR recipients: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/643/records_per_page/ALL.

SOURCE: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)