Virginia locations important to ongoing PFAS Research

Neal Armstrong, the famous American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon, once said, “research is creating new knowledge.”

The U.S. EPA’s Biosolids Program works to leverage resources and knowledge to meet research needs that ensure the latest science is being used to protect public health and the environment. The Virginia Biosolids Council several years ago applied that same foundational principle to its collective activities, choosing to advance biosolids knowledge with research institutions supporting the development of good policy and regulations that are protective of public health and the environment.

There’s a great deal of research currently underway in Virginia that the Council and its members hope will result in the development of sound policy. Some of these are included below:

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

Virginia is one of three states included in EPA’s research using a combination of field, laboratory, and modeling activities. The research is surveying rural water supplies for PFAS. The VA portion is at a field site receiving biosolids in which leaching of PFAS to wells and crop uptake will be evaluated. At the VA site researchers are studying the potential to mitigate PFAS leaching using sorbents such as water treatment residuals or biochar, blended with land-applied biosolids. This study is in its third year, and when completed and peer reviewed 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), and the relative contribution of PFAS from land-application wastewater and biosolids to rural water supplies. Additional information will be gained regarding the behavior of PFAS in soils and will ultimately support model refinements that improve our ability to predict when PFAS will impact potable water sources.

EPA Grant Elucidating the occurrence of known and emerging chemical contaminants in wastewater biosolids and the influence of treatment and management processes on their fate, mobility and bioavailability.

The goals of this research are to advance understanding of the composition, bioaccessibility/bioavailability, persistence, toxicity and mobility of chemical pollutants in wastewater sludges, biosolids and receiving soils; evaluate the influence of wastewater source and treatment choice on these; and assess sludge pollutant effects on critical wastewater treatment and soil microbial processes. The research will be using a series of controlled lab experiments and field investigations.

Investigation of Alternative Management Strategies to Prevent PFAS from Entering Drinking Water Supplies and Wastewater

This project is using a system-level approach to provide utilities with practical, implementable, and cost-effective guidance on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) source evaluation and mitigation. By assessing wastewater, surface water, and groundwater systems, this project will compile information on where utilities are likely to find PFAS in their source waters; recommendations for sampling to understand the sources, severity, and potential impact of PFAS sources; and guidance on feasible and cost-effective source mitigation solutions for preventing PFAS from entering or passing between water systems.

Evaluation of Fate and Transport of PFAS Following Long-Term Land Application of Biosolids: A Collaborative National Study.

Virginia Biosolids Council, working with Virginia Tech’s Eastern Virginia AREC, is part of this national research project conducted by the University of Arizona. The project scales up Dr. Pepper’s local research on behalf of Pima County, Arizona. This study is titled “Evaluation of Fate and Transport of PFAS Following Long-Term Land Application of Biosolids: A Collaborative National Study.”   The national study will focus on numerous sites across the country with records on land application of biosolids to evaluate whether or not land application of biosolids is a significant public health route of exposure. This study is in its second year at the AREC facility in Warsaw.