S. James Ellen Distinguished Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering
North Carolina State University
Detlef Knappe is the S. James Ellen Distinguished Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NC State University, where he is also a member of the NIEHS-funded Center for Human Health and the Environment. After receiving his PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he joined the faculty at NC State University, where he has taught and conducted research for the last 23 years. Current efforts in the Knappe group focus on (1) developing and evaluating physical-chemical (and sometimes biological) treatment processes for the control of organic contaminants in drinking water, and (2) overcoming gaps between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act by developing information about the effects of reactive and unregulated wastewater contaminants on drinking water quality and treatment. Detlef serves on the North Carolina Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board that was convened by the NC Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services, and, until recently, he served on the Drinking Water Committee of the EPA Science Advisory Board. He also serves as Trustee for the Water Science and Research Division of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and he is a member of AWWA’s Organic Contaminants Research Committee and Activated Carbon Standards Committee.
Occurrence and Impacts of Fluoroethers in North Carolina and Effectiveness of Treatment Options for their Removal from Water
Some of the nation’s highest concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) occur in the Cape Fear River basin of North Carolina (NC). This watershed is the largest in NC and serves as a source of drinking water for about 1.5 million people. In addition to commonly studied perfluoroalkyl acids, a range of perfluoroalkyl ether acids (PFEAs), including GenX, have been identified. PFEAs are byproducts generated during the manufacture of fluoropolymer building blocks. A fluorochemical manufacturer located in the central region of the watershed released PFEAs into the air and into surface water for almost four decades. PFEA levels in a 2015 sample of Cape Fear River water at the drinking water intake for Wilmington (NC) and surrounding communities exceeded 100,000 ng/L, and PFEAs passed through water treatment plants unabated. For the majority of the PFEAs, which were identified by high-resolution mass spectrometry, no information was available about their toxicity, environmental behavior, and removal by water treatment processes. This presentation will describe the impacts of the PFEA contamination on NC communities, responses by the NC Departments of Environmental Quality as well as Health and Human Services, and results of ongoing research projects designed to develop the science needed to reduce exposure and answer community questions.