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Updated national emission of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) from wastewater treatment plants in South Korea

Kwon, Hye-Ok, Kim, Hee-Young, Park, Yu-Mi, Seok, Kwang-Seol, Oh, Jeong-Eun, Choi, Sung-Deuk
Environmental pollution 2017 v.220 pp. 298-306
Monte Carlo method, carboxylic acids, emissions, issues and policy, municipal wastewater, perfluorocarbons, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, perfluorooctanoic acid, rivers, sludge, sulfonates, wastewater treatment, South Korea
A nationwide emission estimate of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is required to understand the source–receptor relationship of PFASs and to manage major types of WWTPs. In this study, the concentrations of 13 PFASs (8 perfluorocarboxylic acids, 3 perfluoroalkane sulfonates, and 2 intermediates) in wastewater and sludge from 81 WWTPs in South Korea were collected. The emission pathways of PFASs were redefined, and then the national emission of PFASs from WWTPs was rigorously updated. In addition to the direct calculations, Monte Carlo simulations were also used to calculate the likely range of PFAS emissions. The total (Σ13PFAS) emission (wastewater + sludge) calculated from the direct calculation with mean concentrations was 4.03 ton/y. The emissions of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, 1.19 ton/y) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS, 1.01 ton/y) were dominant. The Monte Carlo simulations suggested that the realistic national emission of Σ13PFASs is between 2 ton/y and 20 ton/y. Combined WWTPs treating municipal wastewater from residential and commercial areas were identified as a major emission source, contributing 65% to the total PFAS emissions. The Han and Nakdong Rivers were the primary contaminated rivers, receiving 89% of the total PFAS discharge from WWTPs. The results and methodologies in this study can be useful to establish a management policy for PFASs.