The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued health advisories for chemical compounds known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These human-made chemicals, first introduced during World War II as an armor coating, have been adapted for a wide variety of everyday products, including food packaging, cosmetics, non-stick cookware, paint, firefighting foams and many other products that are oil and water repellent, temperature resistant and friction reducing. Their usefulness and durability—they’re known as “forever chemicals”– is a double-edged sword. Now they are in our water, air and soil, and they’re very difficult to eliminate.
The PFAS Problem
Today, PFAS are ubiquitous in all 50 states in the U.S. and around the world, and most people have them in their bodies. The health effects of some PFAS are linked to infertility, thyroid problems and several types of cancer. There are currently no federally enforced, science-based standards for PFAS regulation, but the EPA released a PFAS Strategic Roadmap in October 2021 and identified more than 120,000 U.S. locations where people may be exposed to PFAS. The EPA mid-June advisories for a few of the 5,000+ PFAS compounds came with an indication that the federal agency will begin to regulate them later this year.
Ahead of the Curve
Battelle is ahead of the curve on this problem. During the past decade, Battelle has invested millions of dollars in PFAS research and developed a solution called the PFAS ANNIHILATOR™ to destroy PFAS chemicals. The technology has been proven to destroy PFAS by using super critical water oxidation (SCWO), a process that results in breaking the carbon-fluorine bond that makes them so durable. Battelle’s on-site destruction capabilities are designed to eliminate PFAS at the source of contamination before they get to drinking water supplies.
Other Treatment Methods
Other methods for treating PFAS-contaminated water provide removal of PFAS decontamination, but often generate secondary waste that requires additional treatment or landfilling for final disposition of the waste. The Battelle technology destroys PFAS completely, which mitigates concerns with meeting future regulatory limits. Battelle also provides PFAS laboratory analysis and is approved for EPA Method 533 and EPA Method 537.1, both drinking water methods on the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5.
Where Are We Starting?
Initially, Battelle is focused on addressing sources of PFAS in industrial wastewater, landfill leachate and firefighting foams (AFFF). Later this summer, the PFAS ANNIHILATOR™ will be on site in North Carolina to destroy firefighting foam that have high levels of PFAS because of the suppression capabilities. The foams have been used for years at fire departments, airports, military bases and other sites but are now being phased out. While concerns exist about other treatment and disposal options, the ANNIHILATOR™ is a proven non-combustion technology to destroy PFAS in AFFF.
Earlier this year, the PFAS ANNIHILATOR™ was deployed to a facility operated by Heritage-Crystal Clean. The closed-loop supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) technology and completely destroyed PFAS in landfill leachate that was brought to the site.
About PFAS ANNIHILATOR™
The PFAS ANNIHILATOR™ is a scalable technology that is able to be mobile, portable or fixed in terms of operating scenarios. Battelle anticipates that at least four units will be in operation by June 2023.