State Study To Investigate How PFAS Moves, Changes In Treatment Plants

Oct 22, 2019

Crescent Spring near Rhinelander, where a test revealed elevated levels of a PFAS compound.
Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR

Three Wisconsin agencies want to know how PFAS compounds move and change as they work their way through water treatment systems.

The DNR, State Lab of Hygiene, and UW-Madison plan to kick off a study this fall.

DNR Wastewater Section Chief Jason Knutson said scientists plan to work with a dozen wastewater treatment plants in the state.  They want to learn if most PFAS compounds stick with solids or liquids when treated.

“We’ve solicited participation from 12 municipal treatment plants in this study,” Knutson said.  “What we’re looking at is a series of PFAS compounds and how they transform or potentially break down as they move through the treatment plants.”

PFAS compounds, which may have negative health impacts, have been found in drinking water systems across the state, including Rhinelander’s.

Knutson said we know relatively little about PFAS compared to many other water contaminants.

“Having a better understanding of the processes within the treatment train that may cause some of these precursors to transform into PFAS compounds for which we have known toxicology information, that may help us to inform our regulatory strategy, and which PFAS compounds we’re concerned about,” he said.

Solids removed from wastewater are often spread on land.  A second phase of the study will investigate how PFAS in those solids migrates after they’re spread.