Evaluating PFAS Occurrence and Fate in Rural Water Supplies and Agricultural Operations to Inform Management Strategies

EPA Grant Number: R840082
Title: Evaluating PFAS Occurrence and Fate in Rural Water Supplies and Agricultural Operations to Inform Management Strategies
Investigators: Lee, Linda S. , Preisendanz, Heather , Pennell, Kurt
Institution: Purdue University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2020 through August 31, 2023
Project Amount: $1,609,344
RFA: National Priorities: Research on PFAS Impacts in Rural Communities and Agricultural Operations (2020) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Land and Waste Management

Description:

Our overall goal is to address key data gaps in our understanding of the occurrence and fate of PFAS in the rural landscapes and agricultural operations and their impacts on rural water supplies and agricultural products.

Objective:

We propose a combination of field, laboratory and modeling activities to evaluate the following objectives: 

Objective 1. Evaluate the contribution of effluent and land-applied biosolids to PFAS in rural water sources in partnership with environmental management entities, cooperating water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs), biosolid applicator entities and farm owners to access WRRF effluents, biosolids, soils, and well/drinking water; 

Objective 2. Evaluate PFAS fate, transport and crop uptake in a site-specific field study from spray-irrigation with WRRF effluent; 

Objective 3. Evaluate PFAS fate, transport and crop uptake in a site-specific study from land-applied biosolids and if co-application at the field-scale of biosolids-based biochar or water treatment residuals with typical biosolids will reduce overall PFAS mobility; 

Objective 4. Evaluate the occurrence of larger PFAS precursors (e.g., side-chain polymers) in land-applied biosolids and their relative persistence (PFAS source strength) in lab-based studies; 

Objective 5. Evaluate the role of interfacial adsorption on PFAS transport in the unsaturated zone relative to sorption estimated in traditional soil slurries; and Objective 6. Refine and validate mathematical models to predict PFAS leaching and potential risk to surface and ground water resources based on lab and field results.

Approach:

We propose a combination of field, laboratory and modeling activities. We will survey rural water supplies for PFAS in PA, IN, and VA. We will conduct two in-depth field studies. One in PA where treated wastewater is used to irrigate crops and one in VA at a field site receiving biosolids in which leaching of PFAS to wells and crop uptake will be evaluated. At the VA site we will also will also be used to test mitigation of PFAS leaching with sorbents such as water treatment residuals or biochar. We will conduct laboratory studies to quantify the relative long-term contributions of mobile PFAS from precursors and to assess the hypothesized enhanced retention of PFAS in the unsaturated zone.

Expected Results:

The proposed research will increase our understanding of the occurrence of PFAS and their concentrations in private drinking wells in rural communities as well in rural water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs), the relative contribution of PFAS from land-application wastewater and biosolids to rural water supplies. the role of enhanced PFAS sorption to air-water interfaces in the vadose zone, the occurrence and source strength of PFAS precursors including side-chain polymers in land-applied biosolids, and provide model refinements in improving our ability to predict when PFAS will impact potable water sources. This measured and modeling approach will identify landscape, hydrologic and soil characteristics that are most appropriate for receiving biosolids or treated wastewater with minimal impact to water and crop resources

Supplemental Keywords:

well water, drinking water, effluent-irrigation, biosolid

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2021