Biosolids and PFAS
Biosolids and PFAS
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances-- known as PFAS-- are a group of synthetic chemicals found in everyday items such as nonstick cooking surfaces, water-resistant clothing, stain-resistant furniture coatings and grease-resistant food containers. The chemical structure of PFAS causes them to break down very slowly and remain in the environment. Scientists are continuing to study the impact of elevated PFAS levels on human health and the environment.
PFAS can be introduced into water systems from industry and human activity. Wastewater treatment plants do not produce PFAS. The Virginia Department of Health has formed a workgroup to study the occurrence of specific PFAS compounds throughout the state.
Arlington County biosolids are at low risk for elevated PFAS levels given the lack of industrial discharges in the County. Most research has been focused on drinking water and wastewater studies are ongoing to determine the impact of PFAS in biosolids. Arlington County is reviewing testing protocols and plans to begin monitoring and testing for PFAS in accordance with state and federal guidelines in the near future.
In most cases, the amount of PFAS found in biosolids is much less than what is found in everyday products. (Source: Letcher et al., 2020: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.122044)
- “Emerging Contaminants in the Waters of Virginia,” Virginia Water Research Center Academic Advisory Committee (2019)
- “PFAS in Biosolids: A Southern Arizona Case Study,” Pima County Regional Water Reclamation Department, Jacobs Engineering, the University of Arizona, and the National Science Foundation (2020)
- Virginia Biosolids Council
- Water Environment Federation
- Northeast Biosolids Association
- California Association of Sanitation Agencies
- California Association of Sanitation Agencies “PFAS By the Numbers"