PFAS soil and groundwater contamination via industrial airborne emission and land deposition in SW Vermont and Eastern New York State, USA†
In order to understand the extent to which airborne PFAS emission can impact soil and groundwater, we conducted a sampling campaign in areas of conserved forest lands near Bennington, VT/Hoosick Falls, NY. This has been home to sources of PFAS air-emissions from Teflon-coating operations for over 50 years. Since 2015, the Vermont and New York Departments of Environmental Conservation have documented ∼1200 residential wells and two municipal water systems across a 200 km2 area contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Given the large areal extent of the plume, and the fact that much of the contaminated area lies up-gradient and across rivers from manufactures, we seek to determine if groundwater contamination could have resulted primarily from air-emission, land deposition, and subsequent leaching to infiltrating groundwater. Sampling of soils and groundwater in the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) downwind of factories shows that both soil and groundwater PFOA contamination extend uninterrupted from inhabited areas into conserved forest lands. Groundwater springs and seeps in the GMNF located 8 km downwind, but >300 meters vertically above factories, contain up to 100 ppt PFOA. Our results indicate that air-emitted PFAS can contaminate groundwater and soil in areas outside of those normally considered down-gradient of a source with respect to regional groundwater flow.