Incidence of Pfas in soil following long-term application of class B biosolids

Ian L. Pepper, Mark L. Brusseau, Frank J. Prevatt, Barbara A. Escobar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


This field study investigated the impact of long-term land application of biosolids on PFAS presence in soils that received annual repetitive land application of Class B biosolids from 1984 to 2019. Soil samples were collected from three depths of 30.5, 91 and 183 cm below land surface. Biosolid and groundwater samples used for irrigation were also collected. Concentrations measured for 18 PFAS compounds were evaluated to assess incidence rates and potential impact on groundwater. No PFAS analytes were detected at the three sampling depths for soil samples collected from undisturbed sites with no history of agriculture, irrigation, or biosolids application (background control sites). Relatively low mean concentrations of PFAS ranging from non-detect to 1.9 μg/kg were measured in soil samples collected from sites that were used for agriculture and that received irrigation with groundwater, but never received biosolids. PFAS concentrations in soils amended with biosolids were similarly low, ranging from non-detect to a mean concentration of 4.1 μg/kg. PFOS was observed at the highest concentrations, followed by PFOA for all locations. PFAS detected in the irrigation water were also present in the soil. These results indicate that biosolids and irrigation water are both important sources of PFAS present in the soils for all of the study sites. Not all PFAS detected in the biosolids were detected in the soil. Very long chain PFAS present in the biosolids were not detected or were detected at very low levels for soil, suggesting potential preferential retention within the biosolids. The precursor NMeFOSAA was present at the second highest concentrations in the biosolids but not detected in soil, indicating possible occurrence of transformation reactions. The total PFAS soil concentrations exhibited significant attenuation with depth, with a mean attenuation of 73% at the 183 cm depth. Monotonically decreasing concentrations with depth were observed for the longer-chain PFAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number148449
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Groundwater
  • PFOA
  • PFOS
  • Perfluoroalkyl substances
  • Soil PFAS concentrations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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