Peak autumn in North Carolina (photo by Brian Diehm/Pixabay)
NC PFAST Network News November 2019
FROM THE DIRECTOR
Dear PFAS Testing Network Colleagues,
Happy Holidays! The Project Management Team and I hope that you and your families have a great holiday season! I will keep this message very brief, but I wanted to congratulate everyone on the amazing research work and outreach you are doing! Can you believe it?! Most of us have been conducting research and outreach activities on PFASs in North Carolina (NC) for well over 1 year! Time is flying by, but I strongly feel the Network as a whole has accomplished a lot in the past year. We have nearly completed 2 rounds of water sampling across the state, and 1 year of continuous seasonal air sampling at 5 locations is almost completed! In addition, we have studied PFASs in crops, wildlife, landfill leachate, and private wells as well as studied the toxicological effects of PFASs using in vivo models and in pregnant women. Not only are we understanding the prevalence of PFASs across NC, we are also examining potential solutions to limit PFAS exposures. Specifically, the development of novel technologies, such as fluorogels, and testing of existing technologies in removing PFASs from drinking water is providing helpful information for various NC stakeholders to consider to limit PFAS exposures. I hope you all are so proud of what you have accomplished this past year and I sincerely look forward to the next year of accomplishments. THANK YOU for all you do for the NC PFAST Network and for the state of NC!
Jason Surratt, PhD
Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Gillings School of Global Public Health
October Monthly Progress Report - due Dec 6th Quarterly Report to NC Legislature - due Jan 1st
Meet a Network Scientist
MARIE-AMELIE PETRE, NCSU (Team 2) Can you provide background information about yourself? I am a French hydrogeologist and my work focuses on solving groundwater issues in terms of quality or quantity, using geochemical tracers and groundwater flow modelling. I received a Master’s degree in Hydrology-Hydrogeology from University P. and M. Curie (France), where I studied micropollutants in the Seine River. Then I moved to Canada to earn a PhD in hydrogeology from INRS- ETE (Quebec, Canada) and the Ecole des Mines de Paris (France) where I studied a regional transboundary aquifer between Canada and the USA. Before joining NC State as a Postdoctoral Researcher, I did a first postdoc in geochemistry of karstic aquifers in Montpellier for which I was awarded the “2019 Young Karst Researcher Prize” from the IAH Karst Commission.
How did you get involved in the PFAST Network? What are you doing? I joined Professor Genereux's team in summer 2019, to study the PFAS transport in contaminated groundwater near the Chemours plant. We are focusing on PFAS input to groundwater, output from the contaminated groundwater to surface water, and PFAS distribution within the aquifer. A central question we are working on is the time-scale over which PFAS contamination will be flushed out of the surficial aquifer and into the Cape Fear River. I enjoy using different groundwater dating techniques (dissolved gases, tritium) and combine geological and hydrogeological data to better understand this complex system. I also appreciate planning and conducting field work in this area, which allows us to meet people in the impacted communities.
Which people in your field have been most influential to you and your career? My passion for science was triggered as a teenager thanks to Hubert Reeves (astrophysicist, science popularizer and a passionate defender of our planet). I was lucky to meet him while attending his series of conferences at the Sorbonne (Paris) when I was 14 and he inspired me to pursue a scientific career. My PhD advisors also had a great influence on me. I am grateful for Professor René Lefebvre and Dr. Alfonso Rivera who taught me how to conduct meaningful research, shared their passion for groundwater science and encouraged me in my scientific career. Now in my postdoc work, I am glad to have challenging scientific discussions with Prof. Genereux on this exciting topic of PFAS contamination in groundwater.
What major future research questions do you hope to address (PFAS related or otherwise)? The variation of PFAS storage over time in groundwater near the Chemours plant is a crucial information but remains largely unknown. We are hoping to answer this question soon with additional fieldwork to support the development of a hydrogeological conceptual model of our field site. We are also considering the creation of a numerical model of the aquifer to test the conceptual model and make predictions of PFAS transport in the future.
PFAS Article Highlight
Defluorination of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) by Acidimicrobium sp. Strain A6 Shan Huang and Peter R. Jaffé Environmental Science & Technology (2019) 53, 11410-11419 https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b04047
In this recent paper, researchers from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University present results from their investigation of the utility of a particular bacterial strain for bioremediation of PFAS via defluorination. Based on previous work demonstrating that Acidimicrobium sp. strain A6 can degrade trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), the authors set out to determine if PFOA and PFOS could be defluorinated/biodegraded by either a pure A6 culture or an A6 enrichment culture. A6 are autotrophic microorganisms which produce their own food by oxidizing ammonium (or in some cases hydrogen) while reducing ferric iron [Fe(III)] via a novel process in the nitrogen cycle termed “Feammox”. The A6 organism is commonly found at sites where the pH is below 7, the soil is rich in iron, and Feammox activity has been observed.
The team conducted incubations with initial concentrations of 0.1 mg/L and 100 mg/L of PFOA and PFOS. The 100 mg/L levels (0.24 mM PFOA and 0.2 mM PFOS) were much higher than that observed in the environment, but were selected to allow for more accurate fluoride and sulfate analyses and for calculation of fluorine and carbon mass balance. Since there were no other carbon sources present, they were able to track dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to determine if PFOA, PFOS, or any degradation products were being metabolized in the incubations. For each set of incubation conditions, PFAS were analyzed by targeted UPLC-MS/MS. Particulate organic carbon (POC) and DOC were also determined, as well as redox potential, pH, Fe(II) and other ions. Additional confirmation of fluoride levels was conducted using a perfectION combination electrode. Total DNA was extracted from the 100 day incubations for 16S rRNA sequencing and the A6 genes were quantified by qPCR.
The microbial community analysis from the A6 enrichment culture (Day 0 vs. 60) showed compositional changes over time that differed between the communities exposed to PFOA versus PFOS, and smaller changes were observed when no PFAS was present. The team observed removal of up to 60% PFOA and PFOS during 100-day incubations, while total fluorine (organic plus fluoride) remained constant. There was a buildup of fluoride, shorter chain perfluorinated products, and acetate (as well as sulfate for PFOS incubations). They saw an increase over time of fluorinated degradation products (PFBA, PFPeA, PFHxA, and PFHpA for PFOA incubations; PFBA and PFBS for PFOS incubations) with the A6 enrichment culture but not with pure A6 indicating that degradation involved oxidation of C-C and C-S bonds in addition to defluorination. Furthermore they found that at 100 mg/L PFOA and PFOS were the main contributors to DOC, and in the A6 enrichment cultures, DOC decreased slightly over time indicating that products of PFOA or PFOS defluorination were being metabolized by heterotrophs in the culture.
The results of this study demonstrate that Acidimicrobium sp. strain A6 can defluorinate PFOA or PFOS while reducing iron using ammonium or hydrogen as the electron donor. Additional experiments are needed to better understand the Feammox activity and capacity of A6 in the presence of different levels and mixtures of PFAS contaminants and to better characterize the formation and fate of PFAS degradation products.
NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS: Dark Waters
Dark Waters is a feature film that tells the story of real life lawyer Rob Bilott, played by Mark Ruffalo, and his two decades of legal action against Dupont for its PFAS manufacturing practices. The movie is inspired by a 2016 article in the New York Times Magazine, The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.Mr. Bilott first sued Dupont on behalf of a West Virginia farmer in 1998 and then on behalf of 50,000 in the Ohio River area in 2001. DuPont settled Bilott’s class-action suit for $343 million. including the creation of a C8 Science Panel and funding of a PFOA exposure study. Check out more information about the movie here. TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS5tocVPlGM
EPA PFAS RFA WEBINAR (2pm EST on Dec 5th): Information about Request for Applications for National Priorities Research on PFAS Impacts in Rural Communities and Agricultural Operations
EPA is seeking applications to support research to better understand the potential impacts of PFAS on water quality and availability in rural communities and agricultural operations across the United States. The focus of the RFA is to solicit research addressing a better understanding of PFAS occurrence, fate, and transport in water sources used by rural communities and agricultural operations and novel or improved PFAS treatment methods in small drinking water systems and typical small wastewater system treatment trains including influents, effluents, and biosolids/residuals. Register for webinar and find more information here.
EPA PUBLIC COMMENTS PERIOD: Systematic Review Protocol for the PFDA, PFNA, PFHxA, PFHxS, and PFBA IRIS Assessments
EPA is seeking public comments on the Systematic Review Protocol for the perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorohexanesulfonate (PFHxS), and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments. This protocol document presents the methods for conducting the systematic reviews and dose response analyses for these assessments as well as summarizes the Agency's problem formulation activities. Public input will help to inform the subsequent development of draft assessments for these per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. Comments must be received on or before December 23, 2019. Submit comments here.
CDC WEBINAR: PFAS and Protecting Your Health
A recent session of CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds addressed current research needs and the many unknowns about PFAS. Presenters discussed Michigan’s public health response efforts, a new CDC supported multi-site health study, and a community perspective on PFAS contamination. Watch recording here.
The Times News:Haw River Assembly to sue Burlington over chemicals in sewage(Nov 9)
The Haw River Assembly has issued a notice to sue to the city of Burlington through the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). SELC says The South Burlington wastewater treatment plant treats water from at least eight industrial facilities and those plants are passing along industrial contaminants such as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, and 1,4-dioxane to local residents in violation of the Clean Water Act. Burlington officials say they acknowledge there are PFAS chemicals in the city’s discharges but the City does not create the PFAS they just treat what the community discharges into the public sewer system. Read more here.
Chemical and Engineering News:How to say goodbye to PFAS (Nov 20).
An international research team is proposing society move away from PFAS to halt the ongoing buildup of these compounds in the environment and is calling for an orderly elimination of PFAS-containing products from commerce. Ian T. Cousins, a professor at Stockholm University, led the research team members who are also part of the Global PFAS Science Panel, a group of academics and government scientists from Europe and the US. The proposal grew out of “The Madrid Statement,” a 2015 document warning the public and policy makers about the risks of transitioning from older environmentally persistent PFAS to newer ones which may also persist. “The Madrid Statement” led to the 2018 “Zürich Statement” which lays out advice to policy makers on how to decide which uses of PFAS are essential. Read associated policy papers and more details here.
NC Health News:Raleigh students take on PFAS pollution (Nov 21)
Ten students at The Exploris School, a charter school in Raleigh, hope their project on forever chemicals will help bring awareness to the issue and get industries to stop polluting the state’s waterways. At the core of their project is Design for Change, a global nonprofit movement that has been working for 10 years to empower students to inspire others to fix social problems. The Exploris students are now in the feel and imagine phases, conducting interviews and brainstorming with community members about possible solutions to the PFAS problem. Read more here.
Military Times:The list of military sites with suspected ‘forever chemicals’ contamination has grown (Nov 23)
According to Pentagon officials, the number of places where the U.S. military spilled or suspects it discharged perfluorinated compounds has grown with new sites including National Guard facilities. The Department of Defense previously identified 401 sites on active and former military bases where PFAS were released or a suspected discharge occurred and will name the new sites when it has verified the number and locations. Read more here.
Publications and Other Research
Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology (Oct 2019): Treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in landfill leachate: status, chemistry and prospects
Zongsu Wei, Tianyuan Xu, and Dongye Zhao https://doi.org/10.1039/c9ew00645a Environmental Science and Technology (Nov 2019): Uptake of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances at the Air–Water Interface
Charles E. Schaefer, Veronika Culina. Dung Nguyen, and Jennifer Field https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b04008 Environmental Research (Nov 2019): Inflammatory bowel disease and biomarkers of gut inflammation and permeability in a community with high exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances through drinking water
Yiyi Xu, Ying Li, Kristin Scott, Christian H. Lindh, Kristina Jakobsson, Tony Fletcher, Bodil Ohlsson, and Eva M. Andersson https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2019.108923
Environmental Pollution (Nov 2019): Sex differences in the association between perfluoroalkyl acids and liver function in US adolescents: Analyses of NHANES 2013–2016
Roberta Attanasio https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2019.113061