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The deployment of aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) used for firefighting during emergencies and training often releases per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the environment. In October 2018, first responders in Providence, RI, USA applied an AFFF during a fuel spill. Due to the proximity of the incident to the upper reaches of Narragansett Bay (NB), an unknown quantity of gasoline and AFFF entered the estuary via surface runoff and stormwater drains. Water samples near the spill were collected approximately 15 h after the incident and analyzed for 24 PFAS. Minor increases in measured PFAS concentrations were observed relative to pre- and post-spill samples at monitoring sites near the incident, except 6:2-fluorotelomer sulfonate (6:2-FTS) that peaked post-spill (max 311 ng/L). After performing the total oxidizable precursor (TOP) assay on water samples and the AFFF concentrate, significant increases in perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs) were observed. One compound, 6:2 fluorotelomer mercaptoalkylamido sulfonate (6:2-FTSAS), was identified as a major component of the AFFF used. Peak areas of 6:2-FTSAS and the degradation product 6:2-FTSAS-sulfoxide corresponded to observed increases in the TOP assay results and were useful as tracers of AFFF in surrounding waters. Elevated levels of PFAS at the time of sampling were limited to a confined area of the Providence River due to river flow and tidal action. Observed concentrations were also compared to hydrodynamic model results, and results confirmed rapid dissipation of AFFF components with distance from the spill. However, modeled results did not capture possible secondary releases of AFFF from local municipal stormwater and sewer infrastructure, as observational data suggest. The multiple lines of evidence of PFAS present in surface waters permitted a better assessment of the potential environmental impacts from products such as AFFF for which the chemical composition is largely unknown.

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Environmental Pollution



Lohmann_TransportFate_2022_SI.docx (566 kB)
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