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Photo by Ivan Bandura / Unsplash

Host: Travis Loop
Guests: Uma Vempati | Senior Project Manager of Integrated Water Solutions | Kimley-Horn &
Mark Miller | Vice President | Kimley-Horn
Category: 🔬 Research

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:43] UV: “There have been many conversations about PFAS and it became a hot topic and a priority for many stakeholders in the water sector. […] Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure to PFAS, but the exposure could result in some severe health effects such as reduction in the immune system, an increase in the risk of cancer etc. In the recent past, we have been talking about PFAS and its health effects and how we can treat PFAS in drinking water. However, the PFAS chemicals are introduced at the beginning of the wastewater cycle, not the water cycle. So in my opinion, how we deal with PFAS in wastewater treatment is as important if not more than how we deal with PFAS in water treatment.”

[4.25] UV: “If we can manage the pretreatment programs, manage the wastewater treatment, manage biosolids, I think we can control the PFAS contamination on the drinking water side as well. And that is exactly what the EPA is doing now. They are going to focus more on the wastewater effluent discharges and pretreatment programs.”

[10:18] UV: “[The] EPA […] [is] going to focus on the wastewater discharges now, similar to how they're going to collect data from the drinking water source […], they are driven to collect new data to understand PFAS chemicals in the wastewater. With the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, the EPA is going to solicit data and facilitate information from manufacturers in the organic chemicals, plastics and synthetic fiber industries. This data will be used to amend the wastewater discharge requirements of the industries to include PFAS compounds. So that means the pretreatment programs are going to change. You can expect some enforceable limits, regulating PFAS discharges from thousands of industrial facilities, and the municipal wastewater treatment facilities that accept that industrial wastewater. Obviously, the wastewater treatment plants can act as a conduit for the PFAS chemicals to the environment through the effluent discharges and the land application of biosolids.”

[12:04] MM: “We use reclaimed water for irrigation supply, but a lot of that irrigation, as it's used, gets back down in the groundwater and then creates another contaminated source. So what we're also doing is profiling […] where the PFAS sources come from, which then leads to, do we improve their industrial waste program or notification of different customers that send wastewater to their facility, so they can at least monitor and gauge or understand where it comes from? Because without that information and regulations that come up and change or contaminant levels that have been established. […] So if [municipalities] do need to enhance their industrial waste program, for their wastewater plant, then they can at least be prepared for that when it comes out.”

[14:35] MM: “Some of the states have restricted or eliminated land application biosolids, because they're concerned about what's in those biosolids because no one's really prepared yet to identify those additional contaminants. PFAS has thousands of different short chains, […] mid range, all these different formulations that even some of the laboratories can't test for. It's a concern now because of the unknown distribution of PFAS, the biosolids as well as the treated effluent.”

[15:58] UV: “The best place to address any contaminants, including PFAS is at the source. […] In the meantime, most bodies can figure out […] the sources of PFAS in their collection system [and] the levels of [PFAS] coming into the wastewater treatment facilities. […] The next best place to address the PFAS issue is obviously at the wastewater treatment plants, both at the liquid treatments and the solid treatment, so that they can remove them from the circulation in the water cycle. So developing and continuously reviewing the sampling methods, sampling protocols, and the sampling locations throughout the wastewater plant is the key.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 20 min | 🗓️ 06/21/2021
✅ Time saved: 18 min