Effect of clay content on the mobilization efficiency of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from soils by electrokinetics and hydraulic flushing

Charbel Abou-Khalil, Jitendra Kewalramani, Zhiming Zhang, Dibyendu Sarkar, Stewart Abrams, Michel C. Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The need for the efficient remediation of soils impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is substantially growing because of the notable upsurge in societal and regulatory awareness of this class of chemicals. To remediate PFAS-contaminated soils using mobilization approaches, the choice of appropriate techniques highly depends on the soil's composition, particularly the clay content, which significantly affects the soil's permeability. Here, we investigated the PFAS mobilization efficiency from soils with different clay contents by using two techniques: electrokinetic (EK) remediation and hydraulic flushing. Artificial kaolinite was added to a loamy sand soil to prepare four soil blends with clay contents of 5, 25, 50, and 75%, each contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfulorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOA) at 10,000 μg/kg. EK remediation was conducted by applying a low voltage (30 V) with a current of 100 mA, and hydraulic flushing was carried out by applying a hydraulic gradient (HG) with a slope of 6.7%. Results show that, with a 14-day treatment duration, the EK-mobilization efficiency was enhanced substantially with the increase of clay content (removal of PFOS increased from 20% at 5% clay to 80% at 75% clay), most likely due to the increase of electroosmotic flow due to the higher content of particles having a zeta potential (i.e., clay). For HG, increasing the clay content significantly suppressed the mobilization of PFAS (removal of PFOS decreased from 40% at 5% clay to 10% at 75% clay) due to a notable decrease in the soil's permeability. Based on the results, applying hydraulic flushing and washing techniques for mobilizing PFAS would be appropriate when treating permeable soils with a maximum clay content of about 25%; otherwise, other suitable mobilization techniques such as EKs should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121160
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Adsorption isotherms
  • Electrokinetic remediation
  • Electromigration
  • Electroosmosis
  • Permeability
  • Soil flushing


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