Impact of Microbial Growth on Subsurface Perfluoroalkyl Acid Transport

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 2:15 PM
Tess S Weathers, Christopher P Higgins and Jonathan Sharp, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, United States
The fate and transport of poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in the presence of active microbial communities has not been widely investigated. These emerging contaminants are commonly utilized in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) and have often been detected in groundwater. This study explores the transport of a suite of perfluorocarboxylic acids and perfluoroalkylsulfonates, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), in microbially active settings. Single point organic carbon normalized sorption coefficients derived by exposing inactive cellular material to PFASs result in more than an order of magnitude increase in sorption compared to soil organic carbon sorption coefficients found in literature. For example, the sorption coefficients for PFOS are 4.05±0.07 L/kg and 2.80±0.08 L/kg for cellular organic carbon and soil organic carbon respectively. This increase in sorption, coupled with enhanced extracellular polymeric substance production observed during growth of a common hydrocarbon degrading soil microbe exposed to source-level concentrations of PFASs (10 mg/L of 11 analytes, 110 mg/L total) may result in PFAS retardation in situ. To address the upscaling of this phenomenon, flow-through columns packed with low-organic carbon sediment and biostimulated with 10 mg/L glucose were exposed to PFAS concentrations from 15 μg/L to 10 mg/L of each 11 analytes. Breakthrough and tailing of each analyte was measured and modeled with Hydrus-1D to explore sorption coefficients over time for microbially active columns.