Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and neonicotinoid insecticides are persistent environmental contaminants that have been recently detected in many environmental compartments including soil, surface water, groundwater, and finished drinking water in Kentucky. Exposure to these emerging contaminants has been associated with human health impacts due to their carcinogenic nature and stressors to ecological food webs and agroecosystems. A potential transport route for these emerging contaminants to surface water is effluent leaving wastewater treatment plants and land applied biosolids. Although numerous benefits are gained from biosolid applications, contaminants occurring in biosolids, such as PFAS, can be introduced to soil and water adjacent to fields with land-applied biosolids after precipitation events. Further, recent findings suggest degraded pesticides have the potential to return to their often more toxic parent form following treatment processes in WWTPs. To date, there is limited information regarding PFAS and neonicotinoid pesticides in aquatic environments and agricultural systems following WWTP processes. Therefore, the primary goal of the proposed research is to investigate the occurrence and implications of WWTP end products
(biosolids and effluent) for two emerging contaminant classes on Kentucky water resources and agroecosystems. To accomplish this the proposed project will: 1. Conduct a surface water monitoring campaign to identify concentrations and loadings of PFAS and neonicotinoid insecticides entering and leaving two distinctly different WWTPs operations, 2. Investigate occurrence of PFAS and neonicotinoid insecticides in upstream and downstream stream sediments and finished biosolids, and 3. Train a graduate and undergraduate student in sampling methodology for these emerging contaminants.
Outcomes from the project will include: 1. Improve our overall understanding of the prevalence and downstream contribution of PFAS and neonicotinoid insecticides to surface waters and agroecosystems surrounding WWTPs; 2. Quantify the contributions of PFAS and neonicotinoid insecticides into agroecosystems receiving biosolids, 3. Establish seed data to lead to nationally competitive proposals to assess contributions of PFAS and neonicotinoid insecticides from WWTPs in varying watersheds and identifying potential best management practices (BMPs) upstream and downstream to WWTPs and biosolid applications, 4. Form the foundation for a Master’s thesis, 5. Submit a peer reviewed publication based on findings, and 6. Create of a webinar for interested practitioners.