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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Mass flow of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a Swedish municipal wastewater network and wastewater treatment plant

Gobelius, Laura; Glimstedt, Linda; Olsson, Jesper; Wiberg, Karin; Ahrens, Lutz


Per: and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitously distributed in wastewater, due to their numerous uses in industry and consumer products, but little is known of PFAS mass flows in municipal wastewater network systems and within wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). This study assessed mass flows of 26 PFAS in a wastewater network and WWTP, to provide new insights into their sources, transport, and fate in different treatment steps. Wastewater and sludge samples were collected from pumping stations and the main WWTP in Uppsala, Sweden. PFAS composition profiles and mass flows were used to identify sources within the sewage network. Wastewater from one pumping station showed elevated concentrations of C3–C8 PFCA, likely caused by an industrial source, and two stations had elevated concentrations of 6:2 FTSA, probably originating from a nearby firefighter training facility. Within the WWTP, short-chain PFAS dominated in wastewater, whereas longchain PFAS dominated in sludge. The ratio of perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFSA) and ethylperfluorooctanesulfonamidoacetic acid (EtFOSAA) to ∑26PFAS decreased during the WWTP process, likely due to sorption to sludge, but also transformation (EtFOSAA). Overall, PFAS were not efficiently removed in the WWTP, with mean removal efficiency of 10 ± 68% for individual PFAS, resulting in discharge of 7000 mg d− 1 ∑26PFAS into the recipient. This shows that conventional WWTPs are inefficient in removing PFAS from wastewater and sludge, so advanced treatment techniques are needed.


PFAS; Pipe network; Wastewater treatment; Mass flow; Removal efficiency; Sludge

Published in

2023, Volume: 336, article number: 139182