Erika Houtz, PhD, PFAS Analytical Lead
Recently, poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) derived from aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) were measured at relatively high levels in effluent in some San Francisco Bay Area wastewater treatment plants. One treatment plant was impacted by sewage from an Air Force Base and the other was located at an airport, where AFFF is introduced mainly after annual performance testing. A follow-up study was commissioned to investigate the fate of PFAS at the airport wastewater treatment plant before, during, and after a major AFFF introduction event. In addition to targeted analysis of PFAS by LC-MS/MS, AFFF transformation products were identified using high resolution time of flight mass spectrometry and the total oxidizable precursor (TOP) assay was used to measure total PFAS. This study provides insight into the rate at which polyfluorinated ingredients in AFFF are transformed during treatment processes and form terminal, measurable perfluoroalkyl acid products such as PFOS and PFOA. The overall loading of PFAS to the Bay from the AFFF testing as well as its clearance through the treatment plant were also investigated. This work has practical importance for the management of effluent after accidental or intentional AFFF introduction to a treatment plant, particularly when PFAS exposure to downstream users is of concern.
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Dr. Erika Houtz has eight years of academic and professional experience investigating the environmental impacts of PFAS. She has extensive experience in developing analytical and experimental methods for the measurement of PFAS in environmental and human samples. She has also investigated and published on the fate and transport of PFAS in natural and engineered systems, with a particular emphasis on the fate of PFAS found in aqueous film forming foams. Since joining Arcadis in 2016, she has been engaged in numerous PFAS projects, including developing guidance for site characterization, developing conceptual site models at contaminated sites, evaluating the efficacy of treatment technologies, working with laboratories to commercialize new PFAS analysis techniques, and tracking of the evolving PFAS regulatory landscape in the U.S. and globally.
Katharine North is a Senior Hydrogeologist with Haley & Aldrich in Houston, Texas. She has over 10 years of experience with site assessment and applied research. Her primary area of expertise involves developing and using molecular biological tools, specifically compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA), to understand contaminant biodegradation. Ms. North has used CSIA at a variety of sites in California to evaluate the potential for monitored natural attenuation of fuel oxygenates and, most recently, 1,4-dioxane. Her work has helped design more targeted and efficient sampling at sites impacted with petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents. Ms. North holds a B.A. in geology from Middlebury College and a M.S. in Hydrologic Sciences from the University of California, Davis.