Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Daniel D. Snow

Date of this Version


Document Type



Caniglia, J. (2021). Extraction and Analysis of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Wastewater Matrices to Determine Environmental Loading in the Midwest (Issue December). University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Daniel D. Snow. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2021

Copyright © 2021 Justin D. Caniglia


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a recalcitrant suite of chemicals that are environmentally persistent and have been detected worldwide in numerous environmental matrices. Human exposure to PFAS has been associated with a myriad of human health impacts. The work described here employs the development of solid phase extraction (SPE) procedures for wastewater, solids, plants, and polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS). Furthermore, the work also assesses the implications of applying PFAS laden biosolids into Nebraskan agroecosystems and provides insight on the transportation of PFAS in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), agricultural ecosystems, and surface waters. This research will help to inform regulatory agencies, industry, agriculture, and communities to help empower change that could mitigate PFAS transportation, fate, and exposure.

The aim of the first study was to develop extraction procedures for the examination of 18 PFAS in wastewater, solids, plants, and POCIS. As a first step, an effective and universal laboratory SPE method was developed and tested for the four environmental matrices. The second study identifies the occurrences and transportation routes of the 18 PFAS within a midwestern WWTP, surface waters, and agricultural ecosystem through the application of municipal biosolids. The analysis of the fate and transport of PFAS was conducted as a function of river flow, rainfall, crop uptake, and WWTP internal loading. The novelty of this study is this is the first study to compare extraction procedures for four matrices and analyses of PFAS as well as identify PFAS in the Midwest.

For the first study, the results for each matrix demonstrate a high aptness for universal laboratory applications. For the second study, the results indicate that the WWTP is a significant source of PFAS to our surface waters and PFAS can be transported to our agricultural ecosystems through the land application of contaminated municipal biosolids. These studies provide the foundation for further research to provide sufficient results identifying key transport routes of PFAS in the Midwest.

Advisor Daniel D. Snow