Role of wastewater treatment plant in environmental cycling of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances

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Hanna Hamid
Loretta Li

Abstract

The role of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in environmental cycling of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) through aqueous effluent, sludge and air emission has been critically reviewed here. Understanding the role of WWTPs can provide better understanding of global cycling of persistent PFASs and assist in formulating relevant environmental policies. The review suggests that WWTP effluent is a major source of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in surface water. Land application of biosolids (treated sludge) has shown preferential bioaccumulation of short chain (<C7) PFAAs in various plant compartments, leading to possible contamination of the food cycle. Elevated air concentration (1.5 to 15 times) of ∑PFASs have been reported at the aeration tanks on WWTP sites, compared to reference sites not contaminated with WWTP emission. The air emission of neutral PFASs has important implications considering the long-range transport and subsequent degradation of neutral compounds leading to the occurrence of recalcitrant PFAAs in pristine remote environments. Research gap exist in terms of fate of polyfluroalkyl compounds (neutral PFASs) during wastetwater treatment and in aquatic and terrestrial environment. Considering the wide range of commercially available PFASs, measuring only perfluorocarboxylic acid (PFCA) and perfluorosulfonic acid (PFSA) can lead to underestimation of the total PFAS load derived from WWTPs. Knowledge of the various pathways of PFAS from WWTPs to receiving environments, outlined in this study, can help in adopting best possible management practices to reduce the release of PFASs from WWTPs.

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How to Cite
Hamid, H., & Li, L. (2016). Role of wastewater treatment plant in environmental cycling of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances. Ecocycles, 2(2), 43-53. https://doi.org/10.19040/ecocycles.v2i2.62
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