Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 10126–10134 | Cite as

Fate of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in sewage sludge during microwave-assisted persulfate oxidation treatment

  • Hanna Hamid
  • Loretta Y. Li
Short Research and Discussion Article


The fate of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been investigated for an emerging sludge treatment technique using microwave heating-assisted persulfate (PS) oxidation. The effect of heating temperature (20, 50, and 70 °C) and PS dose (PS1: 0.01; PS2: 0.1; PS3: 0.2 g/g wet sludge) was studied in sludge spiked with PFOA at an environmentally relevant concentration (200 ng/g wet weight). Control degradation experiments using spiked sludge without PS addition and background sludge (no PFOA spike) with PS addition were also conducted at each temperature. Sludge samples were analyzed for eight perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs) (C4 – C11) using LC-MS/MS. At 20 °C (PS2 dose), minimal (~ 5%) removal of the spiked PFOA was observed after 72 h, suggesting the need for elevated treatment temperature. For the same PS dose (0.1 g /g sludge), treatment at 50 and 70 °C showed a decrease in PFOA concentration with increasing temperature, with ~ 28 and ~ 42% removal following 4 h of treatment. No significant increase in degradation was observed for the highest dose (PS3) after 2 h, possibly indicating self-scavenging of PS at high dosage. Due to the low initial spiking concentration of PFOA and low extraction recovery, all shorter-chain PFCAs (< C8), the degradation products of PFOA, were below quantification limits in all sludge samples.


Perfluorooctanoic acid Sludge Oxidation Persulfate Microwave Perfluoroalkyl 





Perfluoorobutanoic acid


Perfluorocarboxylic acid


Perfluorodecanoic acid


Perfluoroheptanoic acid


Perfluorohexanoic acid


Perfluorononanoic acid


Perfluorooctanoic acid


Perfluoropentanoic acid


Perfluoroundecanoic acid




Total solids


Wastewater treatment plant



The authors gratefully acknowledge scholarships to Hanna Hamid from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC, CGSD3-475849-2015) and The Schlumberger Foundation, Faculty for the Future fellowship program, as well as research funding from NSERC (RGPIN 185040-13). The authors express their gratitude to Prof. John Grace for reviewing the manuscript. We also thank Mr. Matty Jeronimo (Laboratory Program Manager, School of Population and Public Health, UBC) for assistance with method development and sample analysis and Dr. Asha Srinivasan for her help with the microwave unit.

Supplementary material

11356_2018_1576_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (605 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 605 kb)


  1. Ahrens L (2011) Polyfluoroalkyl compounds in the aquatic environment: a review of their occurrence and fate. J Environ Monit 13:20–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akmehmet Balcioglu I, Bilgin Oncu N, Mercan N (2017) Beneficial effects of treating waste secondary sludge with thermally activated persulfate. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 92(6):1192–1202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arvaniti OS, Stasinakis AS (2015) Review on the occurrence, fate and removal of perfluorinated compounds during wastewater treatment. Sci Total Environ 524:81–92. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arvaniti OS, Ventouri EI, Stasinakis AS, Thomaidis NS (2012) Occurrence of different classes of perfluorinated compounds in Greek wastewater treatment plants and determination of their solid–water distribution coefficients. J Hazard Mater 239:24–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arvaniti OS, Alexandros G, Asimakopoulos ME, Ventouri EI, Stasinakis AS, Thomaidis NS (2014) Simultaneous determination of eighteen perfluorinated compounds in dissolved and particulate phases of wastewater, and in sewage sludge by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Anal Methods 6(5):1341–1349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Avsar Y, Kurt U (2017) Thermotechnical comparison of conventional heating and microwave radiation method for dewatering of sewage sludge. Desalin Water Treat 72:274–280. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bartell SM, Calafat AM, Lyu C, Kato K, Ryan BP, Steenland K (2010) Rate of decline in serum PFOA concentrations after granular activated carbon filtration at two public water systems in Ohio and West Virginia. Environ Health Perspect 118(2):222–228. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bossi R, Strand J, Sortkjaer O, Larsen MM (2008) Perfluoroalkyl compounds in Danish wastewater treatment plants and aquatic environments. Environ Int 34:443–450. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boulanger B, Vargo JD, Schnoor JL, Hornbuckle KC (2005) Evaluation of perfluorooctane surfactants in a wastewater treatment system and in a commercial surface protection product. Environ Sci Technol 39:5524–5530. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Campo J, Masiá A, Pico Y, Farré M, Barceló D (2014) Distribution and fate of perfluoroalkyl substances in Mediterranean Spanish sewage treatment plants. Sci Total Environ 472:912–922. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chen H, Peng H, Yang M, Hu J, Zhang Y (2017) Detection, occurrence and fate of fluorotelomer alcohols in municipal wastewater treatment plants. Environ Sci Technol 51(16):8953–8961. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. ECHA (2015) Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC): Opinion on an Annex XV dossier proposing restrictions on Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related substances. ECHA/RAC/RES-O-0000006229-70-02/F. Available on:
  13. Fawell J, Bailey K, Chilton J, Dahi E, Fewtrell L, Magara Y (2006) Fluoride in drinking-water. World Health Organization. IWA Publishing, London. Available at:
  14. Gole V, Gogate PR (2014) Degradation of brilliant green dye using combined treatment strategies based on different irradiations. Sep Purif Technol 133:212–220. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Government of Canada (2018) Toxic substances list: long-chain perfluorocarboxylic acids. Available at: Accessed Feb 2018
  16. Guerra P, Kim M, Kinsman L, Ng T, Alaee M, Smyth SA (2014) Parameters affecting the formation of perfluoroalkyl acids during wastewater treatment. J Hazard Mater 272:148–154. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guo R, Sim WJ, Lee ES, Lee JH, Oh JE (2010) Evaluation of the fate of perfluoroalkyl compounds in wastewater treatment plants. Water Res 44(11):3476–3486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hamid H, Eskicioglu C (2013) Effect of microwave hydrolysis on transformation of steroidal hormones during anaerobic digestion of municipal sludge cake. Water Res 47(14):4966–4977. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hong J, Yuan N, Wang Y, Qi S (2012) Efficient degradation of rhodamine B in microwave-H2O2 system at alkaline pH. Chem Eng J 191:364–368. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hori H, Yamamoto A, Hayakawa E, Taniyasu S, Yamashita N, Kutsuna S, Kiatagawa H, Arakawa R (2005) Efficient decomposition of environmentally persistent perfluorocarboxylic acids by use of persulfate as a photochemical oxidant. Environ Sci Technol 39(7):2383–2388. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hori H, Nagaoka Y, Murayama M, Kutsuna S (2008) Efficient decomposition of perfluorocarboxylic acids and alternative fluorochemical surfactants in hot water. Environ Sci Technol 42(19):7438–7443. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Horikoshi S, Hidaka H, Serpone N (2003) Environmental remediation by an integrated microwave/UV-illumination technique: IV. Non-thermal effects in the microwave-assisted degradation of 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid in UV-irradiated TiO2/H2O dispersions. J Photochem Photobiol 159(3):289–300. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Houde M, De Silva AO, Muir DCG, Letcher RJ (2011) Monitoring of perfluorinated compounds in aquatic biota: an updated review PFCs in aquatic biota. Environ Sci Technol 45:7962–7973. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones DA, Lelyveld TP, Mavrofidis SD, Kingman SW, Miles NJ (2002) Microwave heating applications in environmental engineering—a review. Resour Conserv Recy 34(2):75–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kissa E (2001) Fluorinated surfactants and repellents. Surfactant science series 97. Marcel Dekker, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee Y, Lo S, Chiueh P, Chang D (2009) Efficient decomposition of perfluorocarboxylic acids in aqueous solution using microwave-induced persulfate. Water Res 43(11):2816–2816. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lee Y, Lo S, Kuo J, Lin Y (2012) Persulfate oxidation of perfluorooctanoic acid under the temperatures of 20-40°C. Chem Eng J 198-199:27–32. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Li X, Xu F, Wang J, Zhang C, Chen Y, Zhu S, Shen S (2010) Preparation of Fe-Cu catalysts and treatment of a wastewater mixture by microwave-assisted UV catalytic oxidation processes. Environ Technol 31(4):433–443. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liang C, Huang C, Mohanty N, Kurakalva R (2008) A rapid spectrophotometric determination of persulfate anion in ISCO. Chemosphere 73(9):1540–1543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lin L, Chen J, Xu Z, Yuan S, Cao M, Liu H, Lu X (2009) Removal of ammonia nitrogen in wastewater by microwave radiation: a pilot-scale study. J Hazard Mater 168(2):862–867. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lindstrom AB, Strynar MJ, Delinsky AD, Nakayama SF, McMillan L, Libelo EL, Neill M, Thomas L (2011) Application of WWTP biosolids and resulting perfluorinated compound contamination of surface and well water in Decatur, Alabama, USA. Environ Sci Technol 45(19):8015–8021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu JX, Avendano SM (2013) Microbial degradation of polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in the environment: a review. Environ Int 61:98–114. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liu CS, Higgins CP, Wang F, Shih K (2012) Effect of temperature on oxidative transformation of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) by persulfate activation in water. Sep Purif Technol 91:46–51. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Oncu BN, Balcioglu AI (2013) Microwave-assisted chemical oxidation of biological waste sludge: simultaneous micropollutant degradation and sludge solubilization. Bioresour Technol 146:134–134. Google Scholar
  35. Oncu NB, Mercan N, Balcioglu IA (2015) The impact of ferrous iron/heat-activated persulfate treatment on waste sewage sludge constituents and sorbed antimicrobial micropollutants. Chem Eng J 259:972–980. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Park S, Lee LS, Medina VF, Zull A, Waisner S (2016) Heat-activated persulfate oxidation of PFOA, 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate, and PFOS under conditions suitable for in-situ groundwater remediation. Chemosphere 145:376–383. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Qi C, Liu X, Lin C, Zhang X, Ma J, Tan H, Ye W (2014) Degradation of sulfamethoxazole by microwave-activated persulfate: kinetics, mechanism and acute toxicity. Chem Eng J 249:6–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Remya N, Lin J (2011) Current status of microwave application in wastewater treatment—a review. Chem Eng J 166(3):797–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schultz MM, Higgins CP, Huset CA, Luthy RG, Barofsky DF, Field JA (2006) Fluorochemical mass flows in a municipal wastewater treatment facility. Environ Sci Technol 40:7350–7357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shi Y, Yang J, Yu W, Zhang S, Liang S, Song J, Xu Q, Ye N, He S, Yang C (2015) Synergetic conditioning of sewage sludge via Fe 2/persulfate and skeleton builder: effect on sludge characteristics and dewaterability. Chem Eng J 270:572–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stockholm Convention (2016) POPRC Recommendations for listing Chemicals. Available at: Accessed Feb 2018
  42. Ulrich H, Freier KP, Gierig M (2016) Getting on with persistent pollutants: decreasing trends of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) in sewage sludge. Chemosphere 161:527–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. USEPA 2011 Draft procedure for analysis of Perfluorinated carboxylic acids and sulfonic acids in sewage sludge and biosolids by HPLC/MS/MSGoogle Scholar
  44. USEPA 2016 Drinking water health advisory for Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). USEPA 822-R-16-005Google Scholar
  45. USEPA 2017 Fact sheet: 2010/2015 PFOA stewardship program. Available at Accessed Nov 2017
  46. Wang N, Wang P (2016) Study and application status of microwave in organic wastewater treatment—a review. Chem Eng J 283:214–214. Google Scholar
  47. Wang Y, Xiao Q, Liu J, Yan H, Wei Y (2015) Pilot-scale study of sludge pretreatment by microwave and sludge reduction based on lysis–cryptic growth. Bioresour Technol 190:140–147. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Washington JW, Yoo H, Ellington JJ, Jenkins TM, Libelo EL (2010) Concentrations, distribution, and persistence of perfluoroalkylates in sludge-applied soils near Decatur, Alabama, USA. Environ Sci Technol 44(22):8390–8396. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yang L, Chen Z, Yang J, Liu Y, Wang J, Yu Y, Gao X (2014) Removal of volatile fatty acid in landfill leachate by the microwave-hydrothermal method. Desalin Water Treat 52(22):4423–4429. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yu J, Hu J, Tanaka S, Fujii S (2009) Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in sewage treatment plants. Water Res 43(9):2399–2408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yu X, Nishimura F, Hidaka T (2018) Effects of microbial activity on perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) generation during aerobic biotransformation of fluorotelomer alcohols in activated sludge. Sci Total Environ 610:776–785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhao G, Gao J, Shi W, Liu M, Li D (2009) Electrochemical incineration of high concentration azo dye wastewater on the in situ activated platinum electrode with sustained microwave radiation. Chemosphere 77:188–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhen G, Lu X, Li Y, Zhao Y, Wang B, Song Y, Chai X, Niu D, Cao X (2012a) Novel insights into enhanced dewaterability of waste activated sludge by Fe (II)-activated persulfate oxidation. Bioresour Technol 119:7–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhen G, Lu X, Wang B, Zhao Y, Chai X, Niu D, Zhao A, Li Y, Song Y, Cao X (2012b) Synergetic pretreatment of waste activated sludge by Fe (II)–activated persulfate oxidation under mild temperature for enhanced dewaterability. Bioresour Technol 124:29–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhen G, Lu X, Zhao Y, Chai X, Niu D (2012c) Enhanced dewaterability of sewage sludge in the presence of Fe (II)-activated persulfate oxidation. Bioresour Technol 116:259–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhen G, Lu X, Kato H, Zhao Y, Li Y (2017) Overview of pretreatment strategies for enhancing sewage sludge disintegration and subsequent anaerobic digestion: current advances, full-scale application and future perspectives. Renew Sust Energ Rev 69:559–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Civil EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations