RFP: Occurrence of PFAS Compounds in U.S. Wastewater Treatment Plants

Due Date: Proposals must be received by 2:00 pm Mountain Time on Thursday, September 12, 2019
More information: http://www.waterrf.org/funding/rfps/RFPs/RFP_5031.pdf

Project Objective

The objective of this study is to evaluate PFAS occurrence in U.S. astewater treatment plants and determine the fate of PFAS compounds during wastewater treatment.


Applicants may request up to $250,000 in WRF funds for this project. WRF funds requested and total project value are evaluation criteria considered in the proposal selection process.

Background and Project Rationale

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a class of anthropogenic chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products, including surfactants, surface-protecting agents, and processing aids to produce polymers. A few PFAS such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) occur ubiquitously in the aquatic environment, biota, and humans. PFAS enter waters through point sources (e.g., wastewater treatment plants, industrial emissions from PFAS production sites, commercial and military airports, and landfills that contain PFAS-contaminated waste) and non-point sources (e.g., urban stormwater, agricultural runoff, and atmospheric deposition).

Because of PFAS use in a wide variety of consumer care products, PFAS have been found in wastewater treatment plant influent and effluent, with municipal wastewater effluents and biosolids now being viewed as potential sources of PFAS to the aquatic environment. During wastewater treatment, polyfluoroalkyl compounds (often called precursors) can degrade into perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAAs). However, due to their chemical nature, PFAAs are not efficiently removed during conventional
wastewater and sludge treatment processes. Thus, the release of treated effluent as well as the widespread land application of biosolids, provide an opportunity for re-release of PFAS into receiving environments. In 2003, a total of 7.18 million tons (dry weight) of biosolids were generated in the U.S., with approximately 55% being land applied. Therefore, land-applied biosolids represent a potentially large and significant source of PFAS into the environment.

To date, limited studies have investigated the fate of PFAS compounds during wastewater treatment processes, but the occurrence, fate, and behavior of PFAS in wastewater plants is largely unknown. The objective of this project is to evaluate PFAS occurrence in U.S. wastewater treatment plants and conduct a mass balance approach calculation to determine the fate of PFAS compounds during wastewater treatment processes.

Research Approach

The proposal should include the following elements in the team’s research approach:

  • Literature review.
  • Collect samples from wastewater plants and measure influent and effluent concentrations of PFAS compounds. Samples should be collected in different seasons to capture seasonal effect and consider in-plant detention time.
  • Perform mass balance calculations on subset of wastewater plants by measuring PFAS concentrations in biosolids.
  • Evaluate impact of wastewater treatment processes on PFAS removal by sampling subset of wastewater plants in detail.

Teams proposing on this project should clearly justify the approach used, as well as the selection of sampling sites and times, and they should provide a well-defined experimental design and data quality assurance / quality control plan.

Expected Deliverables

  • Final Report.
  • A WRF-sponsored webcast following project completion.

Communications Plan

Please review WRF’s Project Deliverable Guidelines for information on preparing a communications plan. The guidelines are available at http://www.waterrf.org/funding/Pages/proposal-guidelines.aspx. Conference presentations, webcasts, peer review publication submissions, and other forms of project information dissemination are typically encouraged.

Project Duration

The anticipated period of performance for this project is 24 months from the contract start date.

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