Research Projects

Applying biosolids to farm fields

Current and Past Research Projects

Developing and Deploying a Risk Framework for PFAS Management in Rural America

Sponsor: Water Resources Research Institute National Competitive Grants Program (104g), USGS
Team Leaders: Caroline Noblet and David Hart

This project uses an integrated risk framework to quantify and communicate the threat of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination to the resilience and livelihoods of rural areas. To achieve this goal, the team is implementing a collaborative, integrated, interdisciplinary research project to address three objectives: 1) identify factors that predict PFAS fate and transport near biosolids agricultural application areas to develop vulnerability models for groundwater (GW) resources; 2) determine barriers to scientific information uptake and implementation of management strategies; and 3) provide a research blueprint for replication of the approach to benefit PFAS-impacted rural communities.

Integrated Assessment of Alternative Management Strategies for PFAS-contaminated Wastewater Residuals

Sponsor: Maine Water Resources Water Institute, USGS
Team Leader: Dianne Kopec

Because PFAS chemicals do not break down, they eventually end up in the wastewater streams sent to treatment plants. During treatment, much of the PFAS are removed from the wastewater and become concentrated in the wastewater sludge, or residuals, that remain. In 2019, the state stopped spreading wastewater residuals on farm fields due to the discovery of unsafe levels of PFAS in virtually all samples and PFAS contamination at several Maine dairy farms. The PFAS team is examining the environmental, social and economic consequences of a range of management options for PFAS-contaminated wastewater residuals.

The Emergent Risks of Food Waste Recovery: Technologies for the Proactive Management of Sustainability Transitions

Sponsor: Environmental Research and Education Foundation
Team leader: Jean MacRae

This project involved sampling and testing source-separated food waste for heavy metals, halogenated organics, PFAS, pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes; and surveying waste managers on their perceptions of risk associated with different sources of food waste. Waste managers were more concerned about physical contamination of waste materials than trace contamination. While heavy metals and other halogenated organics were low in our samples, 60% had detectable PFBA, one of the smaller substitute PFAS, at up to 1 ppb, and nearly all samples contained antibiotic resistance genes.

Maine Residents and PFAS – Capturing a Baseline 2022

Team leader: Caroline Nolet
Participating students: Charity Zimmerman, Molly Shea

This project involves a state-wide survey of Maine residents to assess the public’s current PFAS perceptions of risk, understanding of issues, and support or opposition for possible management strategies. Information on barriers to scientific information uptake was also collected.