What is PFAS?
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of human-made chemicals that have been manufactured for over 70 years and can be found in a large variety of applications used in the United States. These man-made forever chemicals can be found in consumer products we use everyday such as nonstick cookware, fast food containers/wrappers, cleaning products, stain resistant clothing, personal care products (shampoo, dental floss) and much more. Because the use of PFAS is so widespread, most people have some form these substances in their blood, the most common of these being PFOS and PFOA. There is growing evidence that exposure to these chemicals is linked to adverse human health effects such as liver damage, thyroid disease and reduced antibody response.
The History of PFAS Research
Battelle has been one of the leaders in researching and developing solutions to PFAS. Our awareness of PFAS began more than 10 years ago while supporting a site investigation at a Navy site in Pennsylvania. A mysterious foam coming out of an air stripper at the site was sent to our lab in Massachusetts and was later identified as containing PFOA and PFOS. This remedial investigation marked the beginning of our pursuit to identify and destroy PFAS contamination on a national scale.
Through our years of internal research, we’ve learned that the complete destruction of PFAS is not easy. While there will likely be no one technology that remediate groundwater, soil, air and all the other places PFAS that can be found, we have a technology that is a game changer.
Our PFAS ANNIHILATOR™ Destruction Technology
Many are intrigued by Battelle’s PFAS ANNIHILATOR™ Destruction Technology and believe it can be a valuable tool used to destroy PFAS in contaminated water without creating harmful byproducts. This led to me testifying before a joint subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology about Battelle’s extensive history of PFAS research and development of remediation tools such as PFAS ANNIHILATOR™.
How ANNIHILATOR™ Works
This trailblazing technology is an on-site destruction solution powered by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO), a technology that’s been used for several decades to address “difficult to treat” compounds. It uses inexpensive oxidants and neutralization chemicals to effectively destroy PFAS in contaminated water and reduce it to non-detectable levels in seconds. The carbon-fluorine bonds within the PFAS molecules are broken down and decomposed into a non-hazardous waste stream. Our current ANNIHILATOR™ mobile system that can treat up to 500 gallons of contaminated water a day with pre-concentration is set for field deployment in early 2022. A large-scale unit is also under construction.
The Future of PFAS ANNIHILATOR™
Many are also looking at a combination of technologies – for example, adding PFAS ANNIHILATOR to an existing treatment system that removes but doesn’t destroy the PFAS - to tackle the full-scale cleanup of PFAS compounds at large sites like airports, military sites, industrial plants and more.
It was great to see the House Subcommittees on Environment and Research and Technology coming together to discuss PFAS research. It was clear from the discussion that there is a high interest and need for technology solutions that are ready to be deployed and utilized. Battelle is proud to be deploying new technology solutions for PFAS today.
About the Author
Amy Dindal is the PFAS Program Manager at Battelle. She is responsible for coordinating and overseeing Battelle enterprise-capabilities in PFAS including laboratory analyses, site characterization, contaminant remediation, and health risk management/communication that delivers value-added, tailored environmental restoration solutions.