The objective of this Statement of Need (SON) was to develop improved sampling and analytical methodologies to measure per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment. Specific objectives of this SON include:
- Development of field methods designed to rapidly screen or monitor PFAS
- Development of better laboratory preparation and analysis methods for the inclusion of understudied types of PFAS in various media types
- Development and validation of laboratory preparation and analysis method for understudied media types (e.g., oil, mixed-phase media, fire-fighting agents)
- Development of laboratory preparation and analysis methods to monitor total PFAS that can achieve a limit of quantitation (LOQ) that is in the part per thousand (ppt) to single digit part per billion (ppb) range
- Development and validation of sampling methods relative to thermal treatment, stormwater sampling, surface water, and sediment sampling
Proposals could have addressed one or more of the objectives listed above. Proposers were directed to review the document Summary Report: Strategic Workshop on Management of PFAS in the Environment for additional information on these research objectives. This document provides a summary of the March 2022 strategic workshop on PFAS in which research and demonstration needs were identified so as to improve the management and treatment of PFAS in the environment, ultimately reducing risk and site management costs.
Researchers were requested to provide the rationale for selected PFAS of study; at a minimum, measurement of the 40 PFAS that can currently be measured by U.S. EPA Method 1633 should be prioritized as possible. Fate and transport of PFAS at environmentally relevant concentrations is of particular concern, and proposed efforts should reflect this concern or provide the rationale if different concentrations are proposed.
Research and development activities at laboratory-, bench-, and field-scale were considered, although work did not necessarily have to culminate in a field-scale effort.
The use of sampling and analytical methods that are fit for their intended purpose is critical to support decision-making at DoD facilities as well as to support ongoing research efforts. Addressing the research needs described above will result in more effective management of PFAS-impacted sites.
The traditional analysis of anionic PFAS in environmental samples via liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is used to identify and quantify a number of specific PFAS in impacted sites for both site characterization and long-term environmental monitoring. While extremely sensitive and accurate, sample collection, shipment, processing, analysis, and validation result in long wait times for data. There are many reasons why novel technologies that could rapidly screen for the presence/absence of PFAS, or routinely monitor for all water-soluble PFAS would be valuable both in the initial site evaluations and long-term monitoring applications. Rapid or near-real-time monitoring on site could guide the site characterization efforts, significantly reducing the amount of time needed and costs incurred to perform a site characterization that includes the entire source zone(s). Similarly, once the precise constituents of a PFAS-impacted site have been determined and measured by traditional methods, real-time monitoring of all PFAS at each location would be much more valuable that trying to assess remediation or sequestration efforts quarterly with the inherent time delay of high-precision methods.
While there have been tremendous technological advances in detection and quantification of water-soluble anionic PFAS in environmental samples, there are several other types of PFAS that are currently understudied because rigorous preparation and analysis methods have not been established. Any PFAS that are not readily accessible by traditional LC-MS/MS methods such as those described in EPA Method 537.1 or draft Method 1633 are included in this list, such as those PFAS that are too volatile for liquid chromatography (e.g., ultra-short-chain, ethers, telomer alcohols), PFAS that are polymeric in nature (side-chain fluoropolymers), or non-anionic PFAS (e.g., zwitterions). All of these understudied types of PFAS have been observed in the environment, and many may act as precursors to the more readily detected PFAS. Some of these may be of regulatory interest in the future in their own right. New laboratory methods to prepare environmental samples from a variety of matrices need to be developed and standardized for these types of PFAS. This would include the creation of reference materials to quantify PFAS in these matrices. Additionally, new analysis methods are required for some of these PFAS, and those methods also need interlaboratory validation.
The cost and time to meet the requirements of this SON were at the discretion of the proposer. Proposers submitting a Standard Proposal had to provide the rationale for this scale. The two options are as follows:
Standard Proposals: These proposals describe a complete research effort. The proposer should incorporate the appropriate time, schedule, and cost requirements to accomplish the scope of work proposed. SERDP projects normally run from two to five years in length and vary considerably in cost consistent with the scope of the effort. It is expected that most proposals will fall into this category.
Limited Scope Proposals: Proposers with innovative approaches to the SON that entail high technical risk or have minimal supporting data may submit a Limited Scope Proposal for funding up to $250,000 and approximately one year in duration. Such proposals may be eligible for follow-on funding if they result in a successful initial project. The objective of these proposals should be to acquire the data necessary to demonstrate proof-of-concept or reduction of risk that will lead to development of a future Standard Proposal. Proposers should submit Limited Scope Proposals in accordance with the SERDP Core Solicitation instructions and deadlines.