Meet the PFAS Experts

PFAS is in the headlines again and with new funding, regulation and technologies on the horizon now is the time for innovators and entrepreneurs to flourish.

374Water, Allonnia, Evoqua and Global PFAS Science Panel share their expertise on the future cost of PFAS treatment and emerging opportunities to fully pilot and trial new technologies tackling PFAS and other contaminants.

Nicole Richards - Allonnia - World Water-TechNicole Richards, CEO, ALLONNIA: “The response to the COVID-19 pandemic introduced many in the world to the power of new, biologically-enabled sensing and analytics technologies. The advances in automation of “biology by design” have the potential to accelerate the development process for biological solutions in ways not previously possible. These technologies are now ready to help detect emerging environmental contaminants. A new generation of biosensors has the potential to identify environmental challenges without the need for capital-intensive laboratories or labor-intensive sampling and transportation. Treating the contaminants is the ultimate goal, but it starts with timely and accurate characterization and measurement tools.

The recognition of the adverse health outcomes of PFAS exposure has led to several new regulatory guidelines. New standards demand new solutions leading to a wave of new research and development opportunities. Across the board, state and federal governmental agencies (DOD in particular through SERDP/ESTCP), industrial liability holders, and forward-thinking utilities have initiated hundreds of pilots, grants, and proof-of-concept studies. One need across the industry is greater collaboration, where trialing of new technology is coordinated, and results shared to focus in on the most optimal systems for the full remediation and destruction of emerging contaminants of emerging concern.

PFAS treatment cost assessments should include the full lifecycle of the treatment process, starting with identification of the sources of contamination, site characterization, remediation, PFAS destruction, and ongoing monitoring. The exact cost is a moving target, but one thing is for certain, the pump-and-treat remediation methods that exist today will struggle to address the full breadth of the PFAS without breaking the bank. One area for hope is the deployment of new in-situ biological solutions that can prevent the mass flux of contaminants might be the most impactful medium-term technology for decreasing PFAS while cost-effective destructive biological technologies develop.”

Kobe Nagar - 374 Water - World Water-Tech North AmericaKobe Nagar, CEO & Co-Founder, 374WATER: “Historically water innovation flows very slowly, and I believe we are starting a waterfall era where external ideas and technology are being injected into the industry to challenge the old methods and accelerate change. We need to be open to external ideas even if there is risk of failure. PFAS and other contaminants of emerging concern are indicators that the stakes are too high, and it is a very risky approach to continue with the current paradigm. We need to take chances and then have an active dialogue about the successes and failures. I would like to see us as an industry:

  1. Set big, bold goals worth pursuing
  2. Accept the risk of failure and realize that it’s going to be a bumpy ride as we try new technologies and different ways of approaching problems
  3. Create incentives and offer rewards for successful outcomes in a way that motivates collaboration.

Opportunities are everywhere because PFAS is everywhere. We just need to get started because the problem is too serious to wait for government mandates. Leveraging the physical properties of PFAS creates opportunities to eliminate large quantities of those contaminates; for example, PFAS affinity to organic compounds like biosolids allow us to eliminate 1000 times more PFAS for a given treated volume. This is where 374Water AirSCWO technology can eliminate PFAS and other contaminants of emerging concern effectively without any additional cost.

Conventional treatment methods for removing PFAS from drinking water are not applicable to wastewater or biosolids containing PFAS. These conventional processes at best may separate PFAS from substrates, but they are ineffective at eliminating the compounds, leading to the now infamous name “forever chemical”. More robust treatment processes are definitely required – this is where supercritical water oxidation comes in and offers a complete solution.

The way I look at this, the cost of PFAS is the legacy cost of improperly managing chemicals in the past so we have some catching up to do. If we establish the right management practices and deploy technologies that treat chemicals and wastes at the source, then the future cost of PFAS and other contaminants of emerging concern could be zero.

SCWO is an advanced oxidation technology very effective at treating concentrated wet waste. It utilizes the unique properties of water above its critical point (374 °C and 221 bar) to rapidly convert organic waste to clean water, reusable heat and inert gases and inorganic solids. 374Water AirSCWO process eliminated PFAS <99.9% with concentration in the effluent well below the proposed regulatory limits. We believe SCWO is uniquely positioned to address the PFAS issue at a lower cost than current methods.”

Caitlin Berretta, Director Government Affairs & Sustainability, EVOQUA: “We recently received a purchase order for 30 large treatment systems to remove PFAS from multiple drinking water systems. The systems are uniquely designed to provide built-in flexibility by allowing the customer to switch between different treatment media. These systems are designed to treat up to 86 million gallons per day providing clean and safe drinking water for approximately 1.3 million people. Out of the 12 carbons and resins tested in their pilot study, our resin product was the number one performer.

As the omni technology provider for PFAS and a company of integrated solutions, our goal is to understand what the right answers are when they are across our desk. This is a journey. The industry is in the early innings, and we are watching this closely and staying ahead of the curve.

These are complex chemicals with complex solutions. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no one single technology silver bullet for PFAS today (and into the future landscape).

We have a very active, robust technology effort looking at the new and the next technologies including novel medias and non-combustive technologies for destruction.

In addition, there are many evolving areas of PFAS understanding that need of development that would enable innovation and allow us to provide more effective solutions such as detection limits, broad speciation of PFAS, analytical methods for matrices other than drinking water and for a wider class of chemicals.

With our broad portfolio of technology options, we are in a unique position to provide an unbiased recommendation for treatment. As we say, “Technology agnostic, solution focused.” We have the expertise behind us as well with over 50 installations nationwide. You can entrust us to provide both a quality and cost-effective design.”

Caitlin Berretta - Evoqua - World Water-TechCaitlin Berretta, Director Government Affairs & Sustainability, EVOQUA: “We recently received a purchase order for 30 large treatment systems to remove PFAS from multiple drinking water systems. The systems are uniquely designed to provide built-in flexibility by allowing the customer to switch between different treatment media. These systems are designed to treat up to 86 million gallons per day providing clean and safe drinking water for approximately 1.3 million people. Out of the 12 carbons and resins tested in their pilot study, our resin product was the number one performer.

As the omni technology provider for PFAS and a company of integrated solutions, our goal is to understand what the right answers are when they are across our desk. This is a journey. The industry is in the early innings, and we are watching this closely and staying ahead of the curve.

These are complex chemicals with complex solutions. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no one single technology silver bullet for PFAS today (and into the future landscape).

We have a very active, robust technology effort looking at the new and the next technologies including novel medias and non-combustive technologies for destruction.

In addition, there are many evolving areas of PFAS understanding that need of development that would enable innovation and allow us to provide more effective solutions such as detection limits, broad speciation of PFAS, analytical methods for matrices other than drinking water and for a wider class of chemicals.

With our broad portfolio of technology options, we are in a unique position to provide an unbiased recommendation for treatment. As we say, “Technology agnostic, solution focused.” We have the expertise behind us as well with over 50 installations nationwide. You can entrust us to provide both a quality and cost-effective design.”

Gretta Goldenman - Global PFAS Science Panel - World Water-TechGretta Goldenman, Coordinator, GLOBAL PFAS SCIENCE PANEL: “Widespread PFAS contamination of water is now a major problem in the United States and globally. Instead of the chemical industry footing the bill, the costs of clean up are usually displaced onto public utilities and local governments. These costs are substantial, but the potential health-related costs of continued exposure to PFAS are much larger. Unless we reduce the use of PFAS, the costs to be paid by exposed populations will continue to rise for generations to come.”