Investigation of PFAS adsorption by selected Wisconsin aquifer sediments

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7/1/20 - 6/30/22

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  • Yin Wang, UW-Milwaukee
  • Shangping Xu, UW-Milwaukee

Background Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large class of synthetic organic chemicals that are widely used in a variety of applications. Due to their diverse structure and widespread use, PFAS have been detected in waterways across the U.S. As human exposure to PFAS has been linked to cancer, elevated cholesterol, obesity, immune suppression, and endocrine disruption, the occurrence of PFAS in the natural environment is raising public health concerns. Specifically, PFAS contamination has been reported in numerousWisconsin groundwater aquifers. Since PFAS tend to be stable in the natural environment, the transport and fate of PFAS within the groundwater system is directly related to their adsorption onto the aquifer materials which in turn is strongly dependent on the compositions and properties of the aquifer materials. As a result, site-specific investigation would be required to reliably predict the subsurface transport of PFAS. To the best of our knowledge, however, the adsorption of PFAS onto aquifer materials relevant to Wisconsin aquifer settings has remained largely unexplored.

Objectives The overall objective of this project was to investigate the adsorption behavior of PFAS onto several representative Wisconsin aquifer materials collected from sites susceptible to PFAS contamination. The sites were selected for their geographical coverage, their different aquifer material composition, and their proximity to known and possible PFAS sources. Our central hypothesis was that PFAS adsorption onto aquifer materials would depend on both PFAS structure and aquifer material composition, and longer-chain PFAS would show stronger adsorption affinity with aquifer materials than those of shorter-chain PFAS.

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