High molecular weight (106–3 × 107 Da) polyacrylamide (PAM) is commonly used as a flocculant in water and wastewater treatment, as a soil conditioner, and as a viscosity modifier and friction reducer in both enhanced oil recovery and high volume hydraulic fracturing. These applications of PAM can result in significant environmental challenges, both in water management and in contamination of local water supplies after accidental spills. This paper provides a short review of current applications of high molecular weight PAM, including the potential for PAM degradation by chemical, mechanical, thermal, photolytic, and biological processes. Methods for treating wastewater containing partially degraded PAM are then discussed along with issues related to the potential toxicity and mobility of PAM in the environment after disposal or accidental release.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Partial support for this work was provided by a Penn State College of Engineering Innovation Grant and a seed grant through the Center for Collaborative Research in Intelligent Gas Systems (CCRINGS) program funded by General Electric (GE). Additional support was provided by the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center small grants program.