Detection of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S. Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and Wastewater Treatment Plants
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Drinking water contamination with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) poses risks to the developmental, immune, metabolic, and endocrine health of consumers. We present a spatial analysis of 2013–2015 national drinking water PFAS concentrations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) program. The number of industrial sites that manufacture or use these compounds, the number of military fire training areas, and the number of wastewater treatment plants are all significant predictors of PFAS detection frequencies and concentrations in public water supplies. Among samples with detectable PFAS levels, each additional military site within a watershed’s eight-digit hydrologic unit is associated with a 20% increase in PFHxS, a 10% increase in both PFHpA and PFOA, and a 35% increase in PFOS. The number of civilian airports with personnel trained in the use of aqueous film-forming foams is significantly associated with the detection of PFASs above the minimal reporting level. We find drinking water supplies for 6 million U.S. residents exceed US EPA’s lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for PFOS and PFOA. Lower analytical reporting limits and additional sampling of smaller utilities serving <10000 individuals and private wells would greatly assist in further identifying PFAS contamination sources.
Results and Discussion
|mean abundancea within eight-digit hydrologic unit codes|
|compound||major industrial sitesb||military fire training areas||AFFF-certified airports||WWTPsc|
|<90 ng/L (n = 1587)||0.01||0.15||0.29||4.9|
|>90 ng/L (n = 14)||0.21||0.71||0.50||14.6|
|<30 ng/L (n = 1507)||0.01||0.13||0.27||4.8|
|>30 ng/L (n = 94)||0.06||0.60||0.63||8.8|
|<10 ng/L (n = 1509)||0.01||0.13||0.26||4.7|
|>10 ng/L (n = 92)||0.09||0.57||0.67||9.7|
|<20 ng/L (n = 1473)||0.01||0.13||0.26||4.6|
|>20 ng/L (n = 128)||0.05||0.52||0.56||9.5|
|<40 ng/L (n = 1487)||0.01||0.13||0.26||4.7|
|>40 ng/L (n = 114)||0.05||0.54||0.57||8.9|
|<20 ng/L (n = 1586)||0.01||0.15||0.28||4.9|
|>20 ng/L (n = 15)||0.13||1.13||1.13||20.1|
|compound||major industrial sitesa||MFTAsb||AFFF-certified airports||WWTPsc||λd||R2|
Additional tables and figures (PDF)
The authors declare no competing financial interest.
We acknowledge financial support for research at Harvard from the Smith Family Foundation and a private donor. We thank Marcia Castro (Harvard) for her feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript and Jahred Liddie (Harvard) for his assistance with the sensitivity analysis. T.A.B. was supported by the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program (Grant P42 ES004705) and the Superfund Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.