Geochemical and Hydrologic Factors Controlling Subsurface Transport of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Growing evidence that certain poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are associated with negative human health effects prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue lifetime drinking water health advisories for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in 2016. Given that groundwater is a major source of drinking water, the main objective of this work was to investigate geochemical and hydrological processes governing the subsurface transport of PFASs at a former fire training area (FTA) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foams were used historically. A total of 148 groundwater samples and 4 sediment cores were collected along a 1200-m-long downgradient transect originating near the FTA and analyzed for PFAS content. The results indicate that unsaturated zones at the FTA and at hydraulically downgradient former domestic wastewater effluent infiltration beds both act as continuous PFAS sources to the groundwater despite 18 and 20 years of inactivity, respectively. Historically different PFAS sources are evident from contrasting PFAS composition near the water table below the FTA and wastewater-infiltration beds. Results from total oxidizable precursor assays conducted using groundwater samples collected throughout the plume suggest that some perfluoroalkyl acid precursors at this site are transporting with perfluoroalkyl acids.