The largest nonprofit applied science and technology organization in the world has developed an on-site solution destroys PFAS in contaminated water to non-detectable levels.
Columbus-based Battelle launched a weeklong pilot demonstration in early March of its first-to-market total solution for PFAS removal and destruction at a wastewater treatment facility operated by Heritage-Crystal Clean in western Michigan.
The Battelle PFAS Annihilator Mobile Unit, a closed-loop, on-site destruction solution powered by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO), was used to safely and completely destroy per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in contaminated water.
Originally designed as an armor coating in the 1940s, PFAS—widely known as “forever chemicals”—have been adapted for use in a wide array of consumer and industrial products such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant textiles, paint, metal plating, food packaging, and firefighting foams. These products that contain PFAS chemicals seep into the environment including our soil, water, and food supply.
“The same properties that make PFAS so useful also make them very difficult to remove from the environment and our bodies, as they resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water and are temperature resistant and reduce friction,” said Amy Dindal, Battelle PFAS Program Manager. “There are more than 5,000 different versions of PFAS, making every contamination different. This new technology will do incredible things for addressing PFAS water contamination.”
How it Works
More than 120,000 U.S. Locations
In 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified more than 120,000 U.S. locations where people may be exposed to PFAS.
“PFAS disposal is a challenge for many of our customers,” says Brian Recatto, President and CEO of Heritage-Crystal Clean. “When I first read about Battelle’s PFAS Annihilator, I immediately connected with Battelle to discuss a pilot deployment at one of our facilities. PFAS contamination is an incredibly complex, multi-generational problem that needs to be addressed for the health and safety of our communities.”
As federal and state agencies and the scientific community continue to grapple with critical questions about PFAS, Battelle took the lead in developing credible approaches to identifying PFAS chemicals and predicting where they will go and where they came from and how to destroy them completely. Other technologies for treating PFAS-contaminated water only provide temporary PFAS decontamination, require incineration or landfilling for final deposition of PFAS and generate secondary waste. Battelle’s PFAS Annihilator™ Mobile Unit is an on-site destruction solution that has demonstrated destruction at the lowest levels of detection, which mitigates concerns with meeting future regulatory limits that are currently unknown.
To break down these complex chemicals, the PFAS Annihilator pumps draw the contaminated wastewater into the system where it is mixed with hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol as a co-fuel and sodium hydroxide as a neutralizing agent. After passing through a heat exchanger, a furnace removes the salts. Then the water goes into the reactor at a designed temperature and pressure to break the carbon-fluorine bond. The resulting output is carbon dioxide and hydrofluoric acid which is neutralized with sodium hydroxide that turns it into inert salts. This solution eliminates any harmful byproducts. In trials of more than 30 PFAS-contaminated sample types, it consistently demonstrates more than 99.99% destruction of total PFAS.
Reduce Total PFAS in Landfill Leachate to Single Digit Concentrations
“In this pilot we saw the Battelle PFAS Annihilator demonstrate the ability to reduce total PFAS in landfill leachate to single digit concentrations with no adverse byproducts in the treated water," said Dindal. “We’ve successfully demonstrated this technology can be brought to a facility that processes waste materials, set-up in a few hours and destroy PFAS chemicals in the presence of other co-contaminants. We are invigorated in our intent to bring this game-changing technology to scale and expand it to meet the growing need around the country."
In December 2021, Dindal appeared before the U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Environment and the Subcommittee on Research and Technology to give testimony on Battelle’s extensive research and development of solutions for addressing PFAS problems in the U.S.
The next iteration of the PFAS AnnihilatorTM Mobile Unit—currently under construction—will have an increased capacity for wastewater intake and treatment, as well as automate the process so units can operate without manual intervention, bringing it to scale to clean industrial size containers of wastewater.
To learn more about the Battelle PFAS AnnihilatorTM Mobile Unit, visit https://www.battelle.org/markets/environment/investigation-remediation/pfas-assessment-mitigation/pfas-annihilator-destruction-technology