Northeast States Publish Results of PFAS Testing in Biosolids and Wastewater

Northeast States Publish Results of PFAS Testing in Biosolids and Wastewater

Most of the New England states have conducted studies to understand the levels of PFAS in their wastewater and biosolids. 

Most recently, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine have reported on the findings from their sampling and analysis, according to the Northeast Biosolids and Residuals Association. “The states absolutely need to be doing this kind of work, especially since the PFAS analytical testing is very expensive and small facilities cannot afford it,” says Janine Burke-Wells, NEBRA executive director. 

“We know there are still issues with the testing protocols, but we have to start somewhere to find out what is in the wastewater and biosolids. This kind of testing will identify hotspots that we should be hyper-focused on, where industrial discharges are resulting in higher PFAS levels in biosolids that could thwart efforts to recycle them.” Here are summaries from each of the three states.


The state Department of Environmental Protection released a report summarizing PFAS data from organic residuals approved for land application. The report reviewed quarterly data from the third quarter 2020 through the first quarter of 2022. Among the key findings:

  • PFOS, PFOA and PFDA were the most common of the PFAS6 (six compounds with state standards for soil and water) found in residuals samples; PFHxA and PFBA were the most common of the non-PFAS6. 
  • Paper sludges contained higher percentages of long-chain carboxylic PFAS, composts had higher percentages of short-chain PFAS, and PFOS was highest in other types of residuals;
  • Type 1 composts had the highest total PFAS concentrations of PFAS, and four of 11 such facilities averaged above 50 ppb for the sum of 16 PFAS.


The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s rigorous Water Pollution Control Facility PFAS Sampling Study looked at 35 water resource recovery facilities and numerous PFAS analytes. The samples were from sources including influent, effluent, sludges fish tissue, and surface waters upstream and downstream from 10 facilities. 

In summary, 29 of the 35 targeted PFAS analytes were present in one or more wastewater and sludge samples. For wastewater, the most prevalent PFAS was PFPeA (a 5-carbon version of PFOA) in the influent at an average of 111 ppt. In the effluent PFPeA and PFHxA (the 6-carbon version of PFOA) were also prevalent. In general the study found increased PFAS concentrations in effluent. Liquid sludges were dominated by PFPeA, 6:2 FTSA, and PFHxA, while cake materials were dominated by PFOS.

Based on the report, the DEEP plans to build its database and continue with sampling but most likely will require water resource recovery facilities to start doing so as soon as the U.S. EPA finalizes Method 1633 for wastewater and solid media. The DEEP also plans to evaluate sources of PFAS into the facilities.


The state Department of Environmental Protection released a report on wastewater effluent monitoring for PFAS that was required by legislation passed in 2021. The monitoring focused on the sum of six PFAS now regulated under drinking water laws. The report includes sections with PFAS results from:

  • Effluent/surface water discharges from water resource recovery facilities
  • Effluent from selected spray irrigation facilities
  • Effluent from selected industrial and commercial treatment facilities 

“The results from these three Northeast states were not surprising,” Burke-Wells says. “NEBRA has been tracking PFAS levels in wastewater and biosolids for a while now. We have seen the levels in biosolids going down as a result of the U.S. ban on PFOA and PFOS, and more recently pretreatment attention on potential sources. “The levels we see in biosolids are averaging in the single-digit parts per billion, which is approaching background levels.” 

She referred to the study titled PFAS Background in Vermont Shallow Soils and to a New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services study of shallow soil concentrations.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.