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Comparing measured and modelled PFOS concentrations in a UK freshwater catchment and estimating emission rates

The lifecycle, sources and fate of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) continue to generate scientific and political interest, particularly since PFOS was listed by the Stockholm Convention and largely restricted in Europe. It continues to be detected in aquatic environments, with only limited studies into the on-going sources. This paper explores PFOS emissions discharged by the general population into a small catchment comprising two rivers in the UK. A sampling campaignwas undertaken to improve our understanding of population-derived PFOS sources from sewage treatment plants (STPs) and in rivers. A corresponding modelling exercise allowed an emission estimate of 13 μg/day/per capita to be derived for the Aire and Calder rivers. PFOS emission was linked to STP discharges bylinear regression of measured and modelled concntrations (R2= 0.49–0.85). The model was able to accurately estimate the spatial trends of PFOS in the rivers, while predicted concentrations were within a factor of three based on per capita emission values taken from the literature. Measured PFOS concentrations in rivers suggested that emissions from STPs are partially dependent on treatment type, where plants with secondary or tertiary treatment such as activated sludge processes emit less PFOS, possibly due to increased partitioning and retention. With refinements based on the type of treatment at each STP, predictions were further improved. The total PFOS mass discharged annually via rivers from the UK has been estimated to be between 215 and 310 kg, based on the per capita emission range derived in this study