College of Arts & Sciences

UNCW to Participate in Statewide Study on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

AUGUST 21, 2018

Scientists from UNCW will participate in a multi-institutional project to conduct baseline water quality testing for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the environment, including GenX, a potentially toxic compound detected in the Cape Fear River. The N.C. General Assembly recently passed legislation appropriating $5,013,000 to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory to fund the study for one year beginning fall 2018.
 
More than 20 researchers from universities across the state will receive grants to support projects focusing on public and private water source sampling, air emission testing and public health impact assessment. UNCW faculty, along with colleagues from UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, Duke University, East Carolina University and North Carolina State University, will oversee the project.
 
UNCW’s Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory (MACRL) composed of faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will receive approximately $300,000 from the Collaboratory to fund event-based wet/dry deposition sampling for GenX and PFAS at its atmospheric testing station in Wilmington, as well as less intensive sampling at additional locations throughout the state. The team’s research will provide important insight into the potential transport of these compounds affecting other watersheds and drinking water supplies not directly impacted by point source industrial discharges.
 
UNCW’s MACRL has conducted National Science Foundation funded rainwater research for over two decades, resulting in one of the most comprehensive long-term data sets of atmospheric contaminants in the world. Using the lab’s rainwater collection facilities, researchers from the MACRL were the first group to demonstrate that GenX is present in rainwater at significant concentrations, suggesting the possibility of atmospheric transport throughout the region.
 
“My colleagues and I are very excited to investigate the atmospheric transport and deposition of PFAS,” said Ralph Mead, professor in UNCW’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “There are numerous unanswered, fundamental questions pertaining to the atmospheric cycling and fate of PFAS. The outcomes from this research will be transformative and ultimately helpful to the scientific community as well as regulatory agencies.”
 
Collaborative research and regional engagement are key priorities of UNCW’s Strategic Plan.
 
-G. Guthrie