Is Wastewater Treatment Contributing to the PFAS Problem?

Wastewater Treatment



To many people, wastewater refers to the domestic wastewater from toilets, sinks, shower drains, etc., which runs into the municipal sewer system. But wastewater treatment operators understand that there are many more sources of wastewater that need to be considered.

Landfill Leachate, Storm and Sewer Systems, Industrial Effulent, PFAS in Wastewater


Traditional municipal wastewater treatment does not remove PFAS chemicals. In fact, it can convert PFAS precursors into PFAS, compounding a local contamination issue. For example a plant could receive PFAS-contaminated influent which it then passes to other sources through its effluent. In addition, half of the domestic sewage sludge produced by wastewater treatment in the United States is applied to agriculture as biosolids, allowing PFAS to enter the food chain.

Download the Infographic: The Municipal Landfill PFAS Pipeline

PFAS Precursors, PFAS in Wastewater, wastewater treatment plant


As of July 2020, 23 states were managing PFAS through screening, action, or maximum contamination levels for drinking water and groundwater. Historically, states have been far less focused on wastewater impacts to surface water bodies. Download the ITRC table here for current status of promulgated rules by state.

Note that states are starting to manage PFAS contamination in surface waters by including PFAS in their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

Status of wastewater PFAS regulations, PFAS in Wastewater, storm water drain

Download the Guide

To learn more about:


Reaasons to test for PFASReasons to test for PFAS


Sources of PFASSources of PFAS


Current EPA test methodsCurrent EPA test Methods


Status of PFAS regulationsStatus of PFAS Regulations

Pace Analytical ebook PFAS guide for Municipalities, PFAS in wastewater

Frequently Asked Questions

Which test method should be used for wastewater?

The EPA is working on a validated method for wastewater and other matrices. SW-846 Method 8327 was submitted for public comment in June of 2019. Until that method has been validated and approved, we use Method 537M. This is a modified version of the Method 537 validated for drinking water.


What is Test Method 537M?

Method 537M refers to any modified form of Method 537, an EPA-validated test method for drinking water. The modifications we make to the method are determined by elements such as whether the sample is blackwater (sewage) or grey water (storm drains, industrial effluent, etc.), the percentage of solids in the samples, and which PFAS compounds our clients need us to test for.

Do I need to test both influent and effluent?

Unless you’re in a state that requires sampling of both influent and effluent, this is not required. Since PFAS pass through most wastewater treatment plant processes largely unchanged, some argue that sampling influent is sufficient. However, traditional wastewater treatment processes can convert PFAS precursors, so sampling of effluent is often warranted.


What are replacement PFAS?

The production of PFOA and PFOS was voluntarily phased out in the United States years ago. However, there are other PFAS that have been developed to replace them. GenX, for example, is a trade name for a PFAS chemical used to make high performance fluoropolymers (e.g., some nonstick coatings) without the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). GenX has been found in surface water, groundwater, finished drinking water, rainwater, and air emissions in some areas.



How likely you are to have PFAS or PFAS precursors running through your wastewater treatment plant depends on the types of manufacturing and industrial sites in your community.

Remember, PFAS chemicals don't break down naturally. Even if the local plant shut down years ago, or the airport switched to fluorine-free foams, there may still be PFAS in the surrounding soil and waterways.

Download the Infographic: Sources of PFAS Contamination

ENV_PFAS_Sources of PFAS_less text-01

Additional Info on PFAS in Wastewater

Our PFAS Blog written by Pace Analytical® PFAS experts, covers a wide range of topics surrounding PFAS and 'forever chemicals' including PFAS in wastewater.

Sign up for our Blog and check out the full list of blog posts here.

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Now On Demand: PFAS Technical & Regulatory Update for Wastewater Professionals

The U.S. EPA’s 2021-2024 PFAS Strategic Roadmap has a much greater focus on PFAS in wastewater than ever before. For...

5 min read

The Impact of Wastewater Treatment on PFAS Contamination

One of the questions we often get asked is whether wastewater treatment processes remove PFAS. Here’s the bottom line....

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Interim PFAS wastewater memo

5 takeaways from the epa's interim wastewater discharge permitting strategy for pfas

The EPA continues to make progress...


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4 Reasons to Choose Pace®

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Pace Analytical® has been an industry leader in persistent organic pollutant testing for over three decades, and we were one of the first commercial laboratories to analyze for PFAS compounds.

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Pace maintains certifications and accreditations in every state that offers or requires them. We're also certified/accredited by NELAC, ISO, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Department of Energy (DOE).

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Rapid Response

The Pace Rapid Response Team can quickly respond to any emergency. Our team will coordinate sample container delivery, assist with technical information needed onsite, and ensure samples are delivered as quickly as possible to the appropriate Pace laboratory. In many cases, we can provide PFAS results in as little as 24 hours.

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Our mobile lab is the only certified mobile lab in the industry capable of analyzing PFAS in the single-digit, parts-per-trillion range. This lab can identify PFAS plumes and source areas and provide fully defensible data, often with same-day results and at a lower cost than expedited services at other labs.