May 11, 2024

N.H. likely to contract with PFAS-destroying technology

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If all goes as planned, a just-opened facility in Ohio may be destroying PFAS chemicals from New Hampshire fire departments later this year, the first step that could lead to a PFAS-destroying operation being built in New England.

“This isn’t a forever chemical any more. There is a solution,” said Jake McManus from Northeast Purification Systems, which is handling the project for Revive Environmental, which developed the technology.

“It’s the everywhere-but-no-longer-forever chemical,” added Mark Sanborn, former assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, who now works for Northeast Purification Systems.

If a contract is signed by the governor and Executive Council, as seems likely, processed leachate containing PFAS from firefighting foam and equipment will be taken to Columbus, Ohio, to a facility operated by Revive Environmental that uses high pressure and temperature to break down the cancer-causing chemical in a system called PFAS Annihilator.

“If we can do it for firefighting foam, which is the worst of the worst, we can do it for all leachate” that contains PFAS, said David Trueba, president and CEO of Revive Environmental, which is based in Ohio.

Revive describes their system as an environmentally sound alternative to burying or burning materials containing PFAS, the current alternatives. The cost per gallon is “cheaper than incineration, more expensive than landfilled,” Trueba said.

Revive has been using the system at a facility in Michigan that began as a pilot and is now running full-time. The company says it is treating more than 2.5 million gallons a month of concentrated leachate liquid from wastewater treatment facilities.

PFAS, short for “per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances,” is a class of thousands of man-made chemicals that have been around since the 1940s to make products resistant to oil, heat or water. They are used in everything from cosmetics to outdoor gear to non-stick pans and food wrappers, and since they don’t naturally break down they have accumulated in the environment. Exposure can lead to higher risk of several types of cancer and other diseases.

Spurred by discovery of groundwater PFAS linked to the now-closed Saint-Gobain factory in Merrimack, New Hampshire has been at the forefront of environmental regulation related to the chemical.

One of the major sources of PFAS contamination is a type of fire-fighting foam, which can seep into water tables after being used on a fire. New Hampshire banned its use in 2019, leading to questions about what was to be done with existing material. Revive Environmental’s system is seen as the potential solution.

Northeast Purification Systems is acting as the local agent for Revive Environmental. They are starting with the New Hampshire firefighting foam but hope to convince other sources of PFAS to use the system. The idea is to get enough customers to justify building a PFAS Annihilator site in New England to avoid trucking costs.

A big push for the industry is the recent decision by the EPA to add PFAS to drinking-water standards, meaning that wastewater treatment facilities will have to start removing it. “That has caused folks to really realize that if PFAS is in their waste stream … they will need to have a solution,” said Sanborn.

This reflects the way the industry is largely driven by regulation. Revive began operating in Michigan because that state set limits on PFAS in leachate, the liquid that leaks out of landfills or industrial sites.

Another driver is fear of lawsuits.

“I wouldn’t discount the liability factor,” Sanborn said. “This is a solution to your PFAS that gives you documentation … showing that the material was destroyed from a regulatory perspective and a liability perspective.”

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