Authors: Brian Martinez
Faculty Mentor: John Bowden
College: College of Veterinary Medicine
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a variety of manmade chemicals commonly found in everyday consumer products and are an emerging concern regarding their ubiquitous presence in ecosystems around the world. PFAS exposure, which often occurs through contaminated water, has been linked to several adverse health and environmental effects. Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Florida coast in the fall of 2019, provided an opportunity to study the impact of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, on the fate and transport of PFAS in surface water collected from the St. Augustine intercoastal. Water samples from nine sites throughout the intercoastal were collected and analyzed before, during, and after the storm, as well as collections from three other time points over the course of a year. Using a Thermo Vanquish ultra-high pressure liquid chromatograph (UHPLC) system coupled to a Thermo Quantis triple quadrupole mass spectrometer, concentrations of several PFAS compounds were identified and quantified. The data collected will be entered into a monitoring effort/system, iCoast, and combined with data from other locations, will provide information that will be used to identify potential PFAS hotspots in the area and will help develop innovative mitigation practices capable of assessing the impact of future storm events.
Welcome to my poster presentation on PFAS in the St. Augustine Intercoastal! Feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions you may have below.
Great poster! Well put together and visually appealing. Looking forward to seeing concentration results.
Thank you Emily! I am looking forward to obtaining my results as well.
Fantastic presentation! I think the results of this research will be a great addition to the literature and I appreciate tweaking the research method to obtain more finely tuned results.
With regards to questions, I wonder: What changes do you expect to see in PFAS levels when a natural disaster occurs? Furthermore, how do you suppose this will impact us and/or the environment?
Thank you Omar. That is exactly what the iCoast project aims to discover! In my opinion, I would hypothesize that PFAS levels would decrease in this coastal area due to the introduction of new water and the movement of contaminated water out of the area from the storm. However, PFAS could also be introduced from other areas so it may go in either direction.
Although hurricanes like Dorian did not damage the St. Augustine area too much compared to other storms in the past, the introduction of contaminants from different areas can negatively impact the the animals that live in the intercostal area and the people who depend on it.
I am looking forward to obtaining the results of this study and sharing it with you all once the data is full processed.
I enjoyed your presentation!
How were sampling sites along the St. Augustine Intracoastal chosen – at random, proximity to point sources of interest, or by some other criteria?
Thank you Karen!
The sample sites were selected based on proximity to anthropogenic locations like beaches or golf courses.
We wanted to get a wide variety of different locations within the same area.
Hi Brian, great presentation!
What do you think the first steps should be in order to try to reduce PFAS levels in that area?
Thank you Gina!
I believe the most important step that needs to be done to reduce PFAS levels in general is to spread awareness on the severity of this issue. Hopefully, through continued research and discussion, changes can be made to the manufacturing process of products made with PFAS and we can help people make more conscious decisions about the products they are using. Lastly, increasing governmental monitoring, both at the state and federal level, would benefit the environment and the health of many tremendously.
Great poster and presentation!
With studies now showing that social distancing during this time is lowering both air and water pollution drastically, do you expect this to affect the PFA levels in the areas you studied as well? And how will that affect your future research?
Thank you Jacob! Your question is very interesting, and I have wondered this myself. I think it’s very likely that PFAS levels in surface water are increasing at a slower rate due to social distancing and quarantining. However, PFAS are known for their ubiquitous presence in our ecosystems, as they do not break down easily. PFAS can last decades in an environment so this may not cause many changes in preexisting PFAS contaminants.
Hopefully, we can observe and analyze the ten sample sites after this social distancing time period and see how this impacts PFAS levels in the intercostal area.
Your research is so interesting! Your poster was well done and it was easy to read and follow. I’m looking forward to seeing the results and conclusions you can make.