Environmental Restoration (ER) Program Area

The objective of this Statement of Need (SON) was to develop an improved understanding of biodegradation processes and biological treatment strategies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the subsurface. Specifically, the goal was to address the following research needs:

  • Identify and/or isolate microorganisms capable of degrading perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), particularly perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).
  • Improve the understanding of biodegradation processes that could lead to PFAS biological treatment alone or as part of a treatment train.
  • Identify biological treatment strategies capable of destroying PFOS and related PFAAs in or extracted from aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF)-contaminated groundwaters.
  • Identify biological treatment strategies to degrade potential PFAA precursors without production of PFAAs.
  • Identify enzymes capable of defluorination of PFAAs and/or genes coding for such enzymes.

The projects listed below were selected to address the objectives of this SON. Additional information on individual projects can be found by clicking the project title.

Demonstrating the potential for a biological mechanism capable of treating PFAS, could serve as the basis for ex situ or in situ treatment. In particular, the ability to degrade PFOS and/or prevent its production would be valuable to DoD and other AFFF users. A viable biological treatment technology could significantly reduce the costs of remediating AFFF sites. Finally, a better understanding of the potential and limitations of PFAS biodegradation could lead to further development of a promising approach, or prevent further spending if PFAAs prove to be truly recalcitrant or if it proves impossible to prevent precursor transformations to PFAAs.