Landfills are leaking PFAS 'forever chemicals' in 41 Minnesota counties

Magnitude of the PFAS, groundwater problem is unknown, the state said.
By Jennifer Bjorhus Star Tribune MARCH 18, 2021 — 3:17PM

Groundwater at the old Gofer Landfill in Martin County near the Iowa border contains PFAS levels more than 1,000 times the state drinking water safety standard. No nearby drinking water wells have been contaminated, the MPCA said.

Dozens of closed dumps are leaking high levels of the toxic man-made PFAS "forever chemicals" into groundwater around Minnesota, and pollution regulators want more money to determine the full scope of the problem.

Groundwater at one landfill, near the Iowa border, shows PFAS contamination more than 1,000 times Minnesota's drinking water health standard — worse than levels at the former Washington County landfill near where 3M Co. manufactured the chemicals.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released the findings at a news conference Thursday, sounding an urgent request for more resources to address it.

The closed dumps it studied are a small fraction of the landfills operating across the state.

"They are in suburbs, greater Minnesota, regional centers and small rural communities," said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop. "They are next to our homes, our business and our farms."

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Biosolids Biennial Report: February 2020 Report Issued

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a February 2021 document titled:

Biosolids Biennial Report No. 8 (“Report”)

The Report addresses the reporting period 2018-2019.

Section 405(d)(2)(C) of the Clean Water Act requires that EPA conduct a biennial review of 40 C.F.R. Part 503. As part of this review process, EPA collects and reviews publically available information addressing:

Pollutants and biosolids that were newly identified during the literature search timeframe 2018-2019

Pollutants and biosolids that were previously identified in EPA national sewage sludge surveys conducted in 1988, 2001, and 2019 and/or in previous biennials reviews

The information collected addresses the occurrence, fate and transport of such pollutants in the environment. Also addressed are their effects on human health and ecological receptors.

Biosolids are often described as nutrient-rich organic substances derived from the treatment of domestic sewage in a wastewater treatment plant. They can constitute a beneficial resource because of they contain essential plant nutrients and organic material. As a result, they are often utilized/recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment.

Section 405 of the Clean Water Act and the regulations (40 C.F.R. Part 503) require that sewage solids be treated to meet regulatory requirements if such biosolids are to be recycled. Some biosolids permits are issued through Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits.

EPA states that the Report identified 18 peer-reviewed articles referencing 116 new chemicals that occur in biosolids which included:

  • 50 polychlorinated biphenyls
  • 4 pesticides
  • 19 flame retardants
  • 8 perfluoroalkyl substances
  • 3 antibiotics
  • 1 Metal
  • 2 inorganics
  • 29 other organics

New data was also stated to have been identified for 48 chemicals previously indicated to be in biosolids. Concentration data for biosolids were found for 61 of the 116 new chemicals and for 34 chemicals identified in previous biennial reviews.

A copy of the Report can be downloaded here.

Sewage sludge in agriculture – the effects of selected chemical pollutants and emerging genetic resistance determinants on the quality of soil and crops – a review

In line with sustainable development principles and in order to combat climate change, which contributes to progressive soil depletion, various solutions are being sought to use treated sewage sludge as a soil amendment to improve soil quality and enrich arable soils with adequate amounts of biogenic compounds. This review article focuses on the effects of the agricultural use of biosolids on the environment. The article reviews the existing knowledge on selected emerging contaminants in treated sewage sludge and describes the impact of these pollutants on the environment and living organisms based on 183 publications selected from over 16,000 papers on related topics published over the last ten years. This study deals not only with chemical contaminants but also genetic determinants of resistance to these compounds. Current research has questioned the agricultural use of biosolids due to the presence of mutual interactions between antibiotics, heavy metals, the genetic determinants of resistance (antibiotic resistance genes - ARGs and heavy metal resistance genes - HMRGs) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as the risks associated with their transfer to the environment. This study emphasizes the need for more extensive legal regulations that account for other pollutants of environmental concern (PEC), particularly in countries where sewage sludge is applied in agriculture most extensively. Future research should focus on more effective methods of eliminating PEC from sewage sludge, especially from the sludge that is used to fertilize agricultural land, because even small amounts of these micropollutants can have serious implications for the health and life of humans and animals.

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Where do our prescribed drugs end up?

Member blog | Bertil Hagström, General practitioner, PhD - Swedish Doctors for the Environment

After passing through sewage treatment plants, approximately 40 tonnes of antibiotics and other drug residues can be found in Sweden’s sewage sludge, along with a variety of other hazardous chemicals. Even larger quantities find their way into our lakes and seas.

As healthcare professionals, we have a responsibility to the health of our patients and communities. Whilst we must carefully consider the full impact of our prescribing practices and our own contribution to this growing issue, we cannot ignore regulatory and policy solutions – we must act as advocates for more sustainable sewage management.

The health and environmental effects of sewage sludge

Many pharmaceutical residues, pollutants, and industrial chemicals, produced both inside and outside our country end up in sewage sludge systems through household sewage and wastewater, but also from small and large local industries, roads, hospitals, and street drains. Pollution from all forms of consumables comes from global production and trade and there are hundreds of thousands of foreign substances in sewage sludge.

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Drugs used to treat HIV and flu can have detrimental impact on crops

by University of Plymouth

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The increased global use of antiviral and antiretroviral medication could have a detrimental impact on crops and potentially heighten resistance to their effects, new research has suggested.

Scientists from the UK and Kenya found that lettuce plants exposed to a higher concentration of four commonly-used drugs could be more than a third smaller in biomass than those grown in a drug-free environment.

They also examined how the chemicals transferred throughout the crop and found that, in some cases, concentrations were as strong in the leaves as they were in the roots.

The study—published in Science of the Total Environment—was conducted by environmental chemists from the University of Plymouth (UK), Kisii University (Kenya) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya).

It is one of the first worldwide to examine the impact of pharmaceutical compounds on agriculture, and to consider the subsequent risks for consumers.

For it, scientists focused on the drugs nevirapine, lamivudine and efavirenz—which are used to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS—and oseltamivir, which stops the spread of the flu virus in the body.

However, they say it is also relevant in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, with antiviral medications having been approved for use to treat those affected by the virus.

Such compounds get into soils when they are irrigated with contaminated surface water, treated or untreated waste water, sewage sludge and biosolids.
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There is an Alarming Amount of Microplastics in Farm Soil and Our Food Supply

More microplastics are contaminating agricultural lands than oceans, impacting plant development and ending up in produce and people.


Mary Beth Kirkham hadn’t studied microplastics when she was invited to co-edit a new book about microplastics in the environment—but something stood out to her about the existing research.

“I had read in the literature that . . . cadmium and other toxic trace elements [are] increased when we have these particulate plastics in the soil. So, that was of concern to me,” said Kirkham, a plant physiologist and distinguished professor of agronomy at Kansas State University.

Kirkham’s expertise is in water and plant relations and heavy metal uptake, so she decided to conduct her own research in which she cultivated wheat plants exposed to microplastics, cadmium, and both microplastics and cadmium. Then she compared these plants to those grown without either additive.

read full article at Civil Eats