Preserving the Environment: A More Sustainable Approach to Address PFAS Contamination in Groundwater

Preserving the Environment: A More Sustainable Approach to Address PFAS Contamination in Groundwater

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. There is no additional cost to you whatsoever.

With greater than 57,000 websites the place groundwater is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), an estimated 200 million Americans are uncovered to those poisonous chemical substances merely from ingesting their faucet water. We want a more practical strategy to cleansing up these “eternally chemical substances” which were used for many years in firefighting foam, the manufacturing of non-stick pans, fast-food wrappers, waterproof attire, furnishings, and extra.

Once PFAS attain groundwater, they’re readily transported by it. They don’t degrade within the surroundings like different chemical substances, and so they can journey for miles down gradient towards public water provide wells, home ingesting water wells, or floor waters. Exposure to PFAS in ingesting water, which may start even before birth, are possible contributing to an epidemic of chronic health problems.

Of all the chances, ingesting PFAS-contaminated water provides probably the most harmful publicity pathway, because it supplies direct entry into our our bodies the place the chemical substances can bio-accumulate. With three-to-five-year half-lives measured for among the extra prevalent compounds, nearly all of us completely carry PFAS in our our bodies.

The sources of PFAS contamination embody seepage from landfills, electronics, airport and army firefighting foams, and plastics. Swift motion should be taken to include the PFAS upstream of private and non-private ingesting water wells to guard them earlier than they develop into impacted. Thus far, most responses have been emergency-driven, treating the issue on the wellhead after individuals and communities are uncovered.

Common sources of PFAS contamination. Source: REGENESIS, derived from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), Michigan PFAS Sites Database.

Currently, the most typical methodology proposed to guard ingesting water wells from PFAS pumps the contaminants to the floor, creating waste merchandise and new methods to develop into uncovered whereas additional polluting our environment with greenhouse gases (GHGs). A safer, more practical, sustainable, and less expensive various that filters PFAS beneath the floor to forestall exposures has gained consideration and is now being applied on impacted websites worldwide.

Containing PFAS: A Feasible Groundwater Treatment Option

Containing or stopping PFAS motion in groundwater towards public or non-public water wells is the one possible groundwater therapy strategy. Due to their extremely secure chemical construction, PFAS can solely be destroyed utilizing a number of vitality, which contributes to extra GHG emissions. Consequently, chemical destruction strategies employed for different groundwater contaminants are impractical for treating PFAS. In truth, chemical destruction is just not mandatory for remediation. Containing PFAS accomplishes the identical objective: eradicating the publicity threat to communities downstream.

The two containment methods that use carbon to deal with PFAS in groundwater at present are pump and deal with (P&T) and filtering in place, known as in situ, utilizing colloidal activated carbon (CAC). Both approaches use carbon filtration to take away contaminants from groundwater. The selection between below-ground in situ and above-ground P&T filtration turns into crucial when contemplating potential future publicity threat and environmental impacts.

Pump & Treat: Expensive and Ineffective for Groundwater Remediation”

P&T is a hydraulic containment strategy that requires stopping groundwater motion to include a PFAS plume, which describes how the chemical substances disperse in groundwater close to a contamination website.

A PFAS plume spreading via groundwater at an Australian Air Force base. Source: RAAF Base Tindal Detailed Site Investigation

A typical P&T system requires yearly pumping thousands and thousands of gallons of water to the floor to be filtered via vessels or filter beds containing granular activated carbon (GAC) or different filter media.

The vitality required only for pumping water is an underappreciated vitality hog, leading to extraordinary prices levied onto taxpayers and the surroundings. A typical P&T system to include a PFAS plume in groundwater consumes 64,000 kilowatt-hours of vitality and produces greater than 500,000 kilos of CO 2 emissions yearly. In making an attempt to “deal with” groundwater, P&T sacrifices our Earth’s environment.

A typical groundwater pump & deal with system. Source: Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable.

Generating and disposing of tons of PFAS-soaked filter media results in different issues. Each P&T system generates giant quantities of PFAS-soaked filter supplies that should be trucked to a landfill, probably re-contaminating the surroundings by way of spills throughout transport. PFAS can also leach into groundwater following disposal in a landfill. By transferring PFAS-contamination above floor and transferring to a brand new location, P&T redistributes the contaminants, opening new publicity pathways. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not at present recognized a protected methodology for incinerating PFAS waste supplies.

Because P&T is an energy-intensive, polluting strategy,  it was deemed “expensive and ineffective for groundwater remediation” by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2005. Congress concluded the method is “pricey and inefficient” within the National Defense Authorization Act Appropriation bill at present into account.

In Situ Remediation: A Highly Effective, Low-Cost and Sustainable Alternative

Remediating PFAS in situ makes use of activated carbon to rework the groundwater aquifer into a large underground filter to immobilize PFAS.

My firm makes PlumeStop, a type of CAC that makes use of blood-cell-sized carbon particles sourced from coconuts that are suspended in a food-safe resolution to create a liquid, colloidal type of activated carbon. Ink-like in look, the patented novel carbon kind is non-clumping, permitting it to slide via the soil or rock pores. The subsurface is “painted”with extremely reactive carbon within the course of, forming an expansive subterranean filter floor protecting 100 acres for each pound of CAC injected.

CAC is injected into the bottom to create a number of filtrdation zones or permeable limitations positioned between a PFAS supply and a receptor resembling a water effectively or stream to take away PFAS from groundwater. The course of captures PFAS in an enormous underground filter that blocks the additional unfold of eternally chemical substances within the aquifer.

A cross part and aerial view of CAC in-situ filter zones to deal with a groundwater contaminant plume. Source: REGENESIS

Because in situ filtration happens beneath floor, it avoids the energy-intensive apply of pumping water, which offset tons of GHG emissions yearly per P&T system substitute. A just lately revealed study exhibits in situ CAC therapy reduces GHG emissions by 98% in comparison with P&T strategies. These therapies additionally keep away from pumping contaminants above the floor and producing poisonous waste merchandise that should be managed, transported, and disposed of.

Since PFAS concentrations in groundwater are sometimes minuscule — typically measured within the parts-per-trillion vary — and the filter floor immense, in situ CAC therapies will be designed as a everlasting resolution to remove PFAS publicity threat, eternally holding the contaminants in place the place they can’t hurt.

More than 40 PFAS-contaminated groundwater websites have been handled utilizing the in situ CAC strategy so far, supported by peer-reviewed studies demonstrating its long-term effectiveness. As extra websites are recognized for remediation within the coming years, this paradigm-shifting technique to include PFAS and stop publicity threat can probably save billions of {dollars} and remove thousands and thousands of tons of GHG emissions, assembly the necessity for environmental stewardship in addressing the PFAS disaster.

An Appeal for Your Help

It will take time earlier than this naturally powered resolution for safeguarding our ingesting water is totally adopted, and your assist is required to make it occur. Now that you’re conscious of this necessary difficulty, please share your data by passing this text on to your loved ones, buddies, and neighbors. Tell your representatives that there are extra sustainable and efficient approaches to PFAS remediation.

If you or somebody you recognize lives close to a army base, airport, landfill, hearth coaching academy or different potential PFAS supply, and depends on a effectively for water provide, make sure that the water is examined for PFAS. The National Groundwater Association supplies an informative fact sheet providing steering on PFAS testing and therapy, if mandatory, for personal effectively house owners.

About the Author

Ryan Moore is the PFAS Program Manager at REGENESIS.