‘The collective creativity and ingenuity of participants from diverse backgrounds is what makes challenges like these so successful.’
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of an international challenge to find ‘Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS’ (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in concentrated aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) used in fire fighting. The challenge is a partnership between federal and state agencies.
The challenge focused on technologies with potential to remove at least 99% of PFAS in unused AFFF, without creating harmful by-products and using temperatures significantly lower than those required for incineration. The challenge is part of the EPA’s efforts to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by PFAS.
The first place, and a prize of $40 000, went to Aquagga Inc, for a hydrothermal processing concept using high-temperature and high-pressure water to dispose of PFAS-contaminated waste onsite.
The second place was shared. A collaboration between Ramboll Group in Denmark and Nanjing University, China, developed a concept to use ultraviolet light and non-toxic additives to destroy PFAS, while an innovation from the University of Idaho, US, used a continuous flow liquid-phase plasma discharge process to remove PFAS in AFFF. These two winners each received $10 000.
All submissions were evaluated by EPA scientists and key representatives from the Department of Defence.
Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development commented: ‘This challenge is latest step the EPA has taken to help address the effects of PFAS on human health and the environment.’
Patrick McDonnell, President of the Environmental Council of States and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection added: ‘The collective creativity and ingenuity of participants from diverse backgrounds is what makes challenges like these so successful.’
PFAS, widely used in industrial and consumer applications since the 1950s, have been found to be bio-persistent in the environment and the human body. The EPA says that the most studied PFAS chemicals have been voluntarily phased out by industry, but PFAS still has many uses. According to the US’ National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, more than 4700 known PFAS chemicals exist.