PFASs in groundwater: the trouble contaminants of the future?

Stefan Banzhaf1, Kai Bester2, Jeffrey Lewis3, Tobias Licha4, Charlotte Sparrenbom5, Roland Barthel1
1 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg
2 Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University
3 Tyréns AB
4 Department of Applied Geology, Geoscience Centre of the University of Göttingen
5 Department of Geology, Lund University

P 11.2 in Identifikation hydrogeologischer Prozesse mit Spurenstoffen

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a group of anthropogenic environmental pollutants that are of almost ubiquitous occurrence and are found worldwide in the aquatic environment, wildlife and humans. They are among the ever growing group of emerging organic contaminants and have recently attracted huge attention (e.g. Simon 2014). The most prominent PFASs compounds discussed in research and practice are PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoate), as they are most commonly known to be found in the aquatic environment but also in the blood of humans and animals worldwide (e.g. Fujii et al. 2007 and Postigo & Barceló 2015).

Sources for PFASs in groundwater are mainly diffuse sources in form of wastewater treatment plants and point sources like landfills and firefighting training areas (e.g. Eschauzier et al. 2013 and Filipovic et al. 2015). So far, groundwater samples worldwide show occurrence of PFASs, and locally PFOS has been found in very high concentrations, e.g. of up to 1,200,000 ng/l at a firefighting training site (Yao et al. 2015).

PFOS has been banned in the EU since 2008 and is listed in the Stockholm Convention. However, as PFOS and other PFASs compounds are very persistent they will remain a problem for a long time. Moreover, e.g. PFOS is simply replaced by other PFASs compounds, which are often not properly studied in terms of their potential harmful behavior.

The contamination of groundwater with PFASs already has severe implications for drinking water supply today as, e.g. in 2011 and 2013 two waterworks in Sweden had to cease operation after PFASs concentrations of up to 10,000 ng/l were detected in the produced drinking water (Jakobsson et al. 2014).

As groundwater is used worldwide to provide drinking water for millions of people it is of utmost importance to maintain groundwater free from PFASs.

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