Natural Resources, School of



Marie-Amélie Pétré

Detlef R.U. Knappe

Date of this Version



Environmental Science & Technology 2021, 55, 5848−5856.Article



U.S. government work


We quantified per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) transport from groundwater to five tributaries of the Cape Fear River near a PFAS manufacturing facility in North Carolina (USA). Hydrologic and PFAS data were coupled to quantify PFAS fluxes from groundwater to the tributaries. Up to 29 PFAS were analyzed, including perfluoroalkyl acids and recently identified fluoroethers. Total quantified PFAS (ΣPFAS) in groundwater was 20−4773 ng/L (mean = 1863 ng/L); the range for stream water was 426−3617 ng/L (mean = 1717 ng/L). Eight PFAS constituted 98% of ΣPFAS; perfluoro-2-(perfluoromethoxy)propanoic acid (PMPA) and hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (GenX) accounted for 61%. For PFAS discharge from groundwater to one tributary, values estimated from stream water measurements (18 ± 4 kg/yr) were similar to those from groundwater measurements in streambeds (22−25 ± 5 kg/yr). At baseflow, 32 ± 7 kg/yr of PFAS discharged from groundwater to the five tributaries, eventually reaching the Cape Fear River. Given the PFAS emission timeline at the site, groundwater data suggest the abundant fluoroethers moved through the subsurface to streams in ≪50 yr. Discharge of contaminated groundwater may lead to long-term contamination of surface water and impacts on downstream drinking water supplies. This work addresses a gap in the PFAS literature: quantifying PFAS mass transfer between groundwater and surface water using field data.

Gilmore EST 2021 Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl SUPPL-1.pdf (493 kB)
3 figures, 18 tables, 22 pages

Gilmore EST 2021 Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl SUPPL-2.xlsx (49 kB)
50 mL groundwater samples used for PFAS analysis by Detlef Knappe's laboratory at NCSU