Oral Presentation Australasian Groundwater Conference 2017

Impact of PFAS chemicals on insitu microbial communities (383)

Denis O'Carroll 1 , Matthew Lee 1 , Mike Manefield 1 , Kela Weber 2
  1. UNSW, Manly Vale, NSW, Australia
  2. Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

PFAS compounds have exceptional interfacial properties and, as such, they have been widely used since the 1960s for a range of applications, including in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF).   These foams are designed to spread rapidly over hydrocarbon liquid surfaces – a desirable property for rapidly extinguishing fuel fires.  However, this ability to spread rapidly and to be naturally resistant to degradation means that they have a very high environmental persistence and can be rapidly transported away from the original source.  Their unique properties mean that each individual PFAS compound may impact insitu microbial communities to differing extents or may be degraded by insitu microbial communities to differing extents, if at all.  Furthermore, PFAS may have unexpected impacts on specific microbial functional groups (aerobic heterotrophic bacteria, nitrate reducing bacteria, sulphate reducing bacteria, iron reducing bacteria, organohalide respiring bacteria, methanogenic archaea) and that these effects may prove diagnostic for PFAS impacted areas.  Given their unique chemical structures PFAS are highly surface active further complicating an assessment of their environmental fate and impact to insitu microbial communities. 

In this study we collected over 80 water samples from a PFAS impacted site in Canada.  Using these samples we conducted an in depth assessment of the impact of PFAS to insitu microbial communities.  Specifically, insitu microbial communities were characterized using next generation sequencing to obtain the entire microbiological profile of microbes in sampled aquifers. Data is analysed in conjunction with available site data (e.g., subsurface stratigraphy), monitoring well data (e.g., pH, ORP, inorganic species) and soil data (e.g., soil type, organic carbon).   This data provides important insights into these interactions potentially opening up new avenues for the development of insitu bioremediation technologies.

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