PFAS concentrations in soil versus soil porewater: Mass distributions and the impact of adsorption at air-water interfaces

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25 Scopus citations


Determining the risk posed by PFAS leaching from soil to groundwater requires quantification of the magnitude and temporal/spatial variability of PFAS mass discharge from the vadose zone, which is governed in part by the concentrations of PFAS in soil porewater. Porewater concentrations are impacted and mediated by the properties of the PFAS and soil, multiple transport and fate processes, and site conditions. The objective of this research was to delineate the relationship between soil porewater concentrations and soil concentrations, based on a comprehensive model of PFAS mass distribution within a soil sample volume. Measured parameters representing solid-phase sorption and air-water interfacial adsorption are used to illustrate the impact of soil and PFAS properties on the distribution of representative PFAS between soil and soil porewater. Literature data reported for soil and soil porewater concentrations of several PFAS obtained from outdoor lysimeter experiments are used to test the distribution model. Soil-to-porewater concentration ratios predicted with the model compared very well to the measured concentration ratios. The nondimensional distribution coefficient that describes the distribution of PFAS mass amongst all domains within a soil sample was observed to be a function of PFAS molecular size. Numerical simulations conducted for a model fire-training source area were used to illustrate the ranges in magnitude of soil versus porewater concentrations for representative field conditions. The results of the measured and simulated data sets demonstrated the importance of air-water interfacial adsorption for the distribution of the longer-chain PFAS within soil samples. PFAS soil porewater concentrations are anticipated to range from ng/L to mg/L depending upon soil concentrations, which in turn depend upon the nature of the site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number134938
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Air-water interfacial adsorption
  • Leaching
  • PFOA
  • PFOS
  • Perfluorinated
  • Sorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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