PCBs (polychlorinated biphenols)

Chemical symbol/abbreviations:

PCBs

Solubility in water:

PCBs are non-polar and are insoluble in water. PCBs are transferred into aquatic environments on the surfaces of particulates typically.[i]

Related constituents:

Dioxin – similar to PCBs chemically, but not intentionally manufactured like PCBs. Dioxin is typically the result of waste incineration, pulp and paper bleaching, and the production of chlorinated aromatics such as pesticides.[ii]
A common dioxin is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD).[iii]

Adverse human impacts:

In humans, PCBs can cause skin changes, thymus gland problems, immune deficiencies, reproductive and nervous system difficulties and increase the risk of cancer.[iv]

Adverse impacts on the environment:

PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals, in addition to serious effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects.[v]
The most carcinogenic components of PCB mixtures tend to bioaccumulate in fish and other animals and bind to sediments.[vi]

Stormwater Treatment to Remove PCBs

Polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) in Stormwater FAQs

What are polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs)?2019-07-26T09:30:31+00:00

PCBs describe a broad range of man-made industrial products and chemicals used for hundreds of industrial and commercial products. PCBs are non-polar and are relatively insoluble in water.[v]

How do PCBs get into stormwater runoff?2019-07-26T09:18:13+00:00

PCBs are released into the environment by the improper handling and disposal of wastes containing PCBs. Because PCBs are highly insoluble in water, they are typically transferred into aquatic and terrestrial environments through surface water flows attached solid particulate matter.[ix] Contaminated soils and debris can then be ingested by wildlife, causing bioaccumulation to be a transporting mechanism within the food-chain. Due to its extreme toxicity to humans, it has been banned in the U.S. for production since 1979. Prior to it being banned, it was primarily used in electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment and had varying appearances from thin, light-colored liquids to black waxy solids.[viii]

Why should PCBs be removed from industrial stormwater runoff?2019-07-26T09:20:11+00:00

PCBs should be removed from stormwater discharge because they are highly carcinogenic. The most carcinogenic components of PCB mixtures tend to bioaccumulate in fish and other animals and bind to sediments.[vi] Humans ingest PCBs through the consumption of contaminated fish and other animals. In humans, PCBs can cause skin changes, thymus gland problems, immune deficiencies, reproductive and nervous system difficulties and increase the risk of cancer.[iv] PCBs have been shown to also cause cancer in animals, in addition to serious effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system, and other health effects.[v]

How are PCBs removed from industrial stormwater runoff?2019-07-25T13:01:52+00:00

Enhanced, passive media filtration and advanced polishing can be used to effectively remove PCBs from stormwater prior to discharge. If further reduction is necessary to remove PCBs, advanced polishing technologies can be used. Both types of BMPs combined in a treatment train will remove PCBs from stormwater prior to discharge to help facilities meet benchmarks or NALs. The Aquip passive media filter and the Purus polisher combined offer an advanced level of PCB removal from stormwater. Learn more about our stormwater media filtration and polishing technologies.

Background:

PCBs describe a broad range of man-made chemicals used for hundreds of industrial and commercial products. Due to its extreme toxicity to humans, it has been banned in the U.S. for production since 1979. It was primarily used in electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment and had varying appearances from thin, light colored liquids to black waxy solids.[viii]
PCBs are released into the environment by the improper handling and disposal of wastes containing PCBs. Because PCBs are highly insoluble in water, they are typically associated with solid particulate matter. Contaminated soils and debris can then be transferred into aquatic and terrestrial environments through surface water flows.[ix]

Bioaccumulation also plays a transport mechanism within the food-chain.

Materials suspect of containing PCBs should be disposed of at hazardous waste facilities. Transformers, capacitors, voltage regulators, oil-filled motors and hydraulic systems, cable insulation, and fluorescent light ballasts are common items containing PCBs[x]

U.S. EPA recommended water quality criteria: (Total PCBs) [vii]

Freshwater – Aquatic Organisms (Total Recoverable; pH 6.5-9.0)Saltwater– Aquatic OrganismsHuman Health for the consumption of
Acute (µg/L)Chronic (µg/L)Acute (µg/L)Chronic (µg/L)Water + Organism (µg/L)Organism Only (µg/L)
na0.014na0.030.0000640.000064

Appendices

[i] N. K. Nagpal, British Columbia Ministry of the Env’t, Water quality criteria for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): forms and transformations in the environment (1992) available at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/water-quality (last visited July 25, 2019).

[ii] U.S. EPA, Dioxins and Furans, https://www.epa.gov/dioxin (last visited July 25, 2019).

[iii] U.S. EPA, Dioxins and Furans, https://www.epa.gov/dioxin (last visited July 25, 2019).

[iv] U.S. EPA, List of Contaminants and Their MCLs, http://www.epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/index.html (last visited July 25, 2019).

[v] U.S. EPA, Health Effects of PCBs https://www.epa.gov/hw (last visited July 25, 2019).

[vi] U.S. EPA, Health Effects of PCBs https://www.epa.gov/hw (last visited July 25, 2019).

[vii] U.S. EPA, National Recommended Water Quality Criteria, https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics/water-topics (last visited July 25, 2019).

[viii] U.S. EPA, Basic Information – Polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) https://www.epa.gov/pcbs (last visited July 25, 2019).

[ix] N. K. Nagpal, British Columbia Ministry of the Env’t, Water quality criteria for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): forms and transformations in the environment (1992) available at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/water-quality (last visited July 25, 2019).

[x] U.S. EPA, Basic Information – Polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) https://www.epa.gov/pcbs (last visited July 25, 2019).

The StormwateRx Aquip® industrial filtration system uses an innovative enhanced sand filtration process to effectively remove soluble and insoluble aluminum and other metals as well as oils, suspended solids, organics and nutrients from industrial stormwater runoff.

The Purus™ Stormwater Polishing System (previously known as the AquiPlus) provides the most advanced level of stormwater treatment, and is designed for challenging stormwater conditions or targeted pollutant removal.

2019-07-26T09:30:24+00:00