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Assessment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in water resources of New Mexico, 2020–21

January 18, 2024

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been detected in public and private drinking-water wells, springs, and surface waters in New Mexico; however, the presence and distribution of PFAS in water resources across the State are not well characterized. From August 2020 to October 2021, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the New Mexico Environment Department, collected water-quality samples from groundwater and surface-water sites throughout New Mexico. One hundred and seventeen groundwater wells were sampled from unconfined water-table aquifers for PFAS and a geochemical suite including major ions, trace elements, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen, tritium, and carbon-14 to provide context for groundwater age and geochemical evolution. Eighteen surface-water samples were analyzed for PFAS, and select samples were analyzed for wastewater tracers, major ions, trace elements, and DOC. Blanks and replicates indicated low bias and variability for PFAS, wastewater tracers, and geochemical compounds.

Twenty-seven of the 117 groundwater sites had PFAS concentrations reported above the detection level, and there were no exceedances of the 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory of 70 nanograms per liter (ng/L) perfluorooctanoic acid plus perfluorooctane sulfonic acid. Twenty-two sites were resampled and showed similar signatures, excluding some springs. Total PFAS concentrations ranged from 0.91 to 80.3 ng/L. The most frequently detected PFAS at groundwater sites were perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS; 11 sites), perfluoropentanoic acid (10 sites), and perfluorohexanoic acid (9 sites). Correlations were found between certain PFAS compounds that suggest similar sources. PFAS were also correlated with tritium, DOC, and nitrate, which indicated that a presence of anthropogenic compounds could in turn indicate a likelihood of PFAS occurrence. In addition, a cluster analysis showed that varying geochemical processes and sources of anthropogenic compounds likely contribute to the PFAS signature of each groundwater sample.

Surface-water samples showed variable total PFAS concentrations ranging from 1.0 to 155.4 ng/L. Sites downstream from urban areas showed numerous PFAS detections. Some undeveloped areas where minimal PFAS detections would be expected had PFAS detections. Correlations between PFAS were found that suggested similar sources. Perfluoropentanoic acid and PFBS were the most frequently detected PFAS, and PFBS had the highest single concentration of 93 ng/L.

Results of the study provide an overview of PFAS occurrences in the water resources of New Mexico along with geochemical context and are used to identify areas for further scientific investigations that could further characterize PFAS occurrences in New Mexico.

Publication Year 2024
Title Assessment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in water resources of New Mexico, 2020–21
DOI 10.3133/sir20235129
Authors Rebecca E. Travis, Kimberly R. Beisner, Kate Wilkins, Jeramy Roland Jasmann, Steffanie H. Keefe, Larry B. Barber
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2023-5129
Index ID sir20235129
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center