EPA, U.S. Department of Defense, and State Partners Launch Technical Challenge Seeking Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS in Firefighting Foam
Trump Administration continues its commitment to support state, tribal, and local communities in addressing PFAS
Fayetteville, N.C. (August 25, 2020) — At a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) roundtable hosted by U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08) today in Fayetteville, N.C., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler launched an innovation challenge to identify solutions to destroy PFAS. The Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge is a partnership between federal and states agencies seeking detailed plans for a non-thermal technologies to destroy PFAS in concentrated aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a type of firefighting foam. This challenge is part of the significant progress the Trump EPA has made in implementing the PFAS Action Plan—the most comprehensive cross-agency plan ever to address an emerging chemical of concern.
“EPA researchers and staff are harnessing the power of crowdsourcing to identify ways to destroy PFAS through non-incineration methods,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The Trump Administration has offered major assistance to more than 30 states across the U.S. to protect human health regarding PFAS, and the agency is offering up to $50,000 for the best design concept to safely destroy the chemical.”
“PFAS is a national issue that needs national solutions. This competition is a catalyst for the kind of creative innovation that it's going to take to find those solutions. DOD's involvement with this competition supports our goal of mitigating and eliminating the use of AFFF containing PFAS,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment W. Jordan Gillis.
“States are working with the EPA to look for ways to address PFAS contamination and destroy the chemicals once they are collected. This provides the opportunity to access national and international experts to assist in eliminating the contaminant,” said Jim Macy, President of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and Director of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
“I thank Administrator Wheeler for coming to our community and announcing the Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge in Fayetteville, demonstrating the Trump administration’s commitment to this issue and our region. I will continue to work with the EPA to further our progress to combat PFAS chemicals, including GenX, through this new partnership and the PFAS Action Plan,” said U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08).
PFAS compounds are hard to destroy because of their unique chemical characteristics. Currently, EPA is investigating all methods of destroying PFAS. Incineration has been used to treat PFAS-contaminated media, and EPA scientists are collaborating with the private sector to evaluate the effectiveness of thermal treatment technologies to completely destroy PFAS. The goal of this challenge is to discover new non-thermal technologies and approaches that can remove at least 99 percent of PFAS in unused AFFF, without creating any harmful byproducts. Although PFAS compounds can be found in various waste streams, the challenge is focused on unused AFFF.
EPA, other federal agencies, states, local communities and tribes, are working together to identify safe and efficient solutions to destroy PFAS-contaminated media and waste, such as AFFF. EPA is pleased to collaborate in the challenge with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP); the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and the Environmental Research Institute of the States (ERIS); Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE); and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
To address the need for new non-thermal technologies that destroy PFAS, without generating hazardous byproducts, EPA is offering up to $50K for the best design concept(s), with the added potential opportunity for field testing of the winning design concept(s) in partnership with EPA and ESTCP. Challenge details can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/innovation/innovative-ways-destroy-pfas-challenge. The challenge opens today and closes on November 23, 2020. Winners are expected to be announced in early 2021.
For information about EPA’s PFAS Research, visit www.epa.gov/chemical-research/research-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas
EPA continues to make progress under its PFAS Action Plan to protect the environment and human health. To date, EPA has:
Highlighted Action: Drinking Water
- In December 2019, EPA published a new validated method to accurately test for 11 additional PFAS in drinking water.
- EPA’s new validated Method 533 focuses on “short chain” PFAS, those PFAS with carbon chain lengths of four to 12. Method 533 complements EPA Method 537.1 and the agency can now measure 29 chemicals.
- In February 2020, EPA proposed regulatory determinations for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water. The comment period on these preliminary determinations closed on June 10, 2020. The agency will review and consider comments received on this action then take the next appropriate steps.
- EPA also asked for information and data on other PFAS substances, as well as seeking comment on potential monitoring requirements and regulatory approaches EPA is considering for PFAS chemicals.
Highlighted Action: Cleanup
- In December 2019, EPA issued Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS, which provides cleanup guidance for federal cleanup programs that will be helpful to states and tribes.
- In July 2020, EPA submitted the Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of PFAS and Materials Containing PFAS. The guidance would provide information on technologies that may be feasible and appropriate for the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. It would also identify ongoing research and development activities related to destruction and disposal technologies, which may inform future guidance.
- EPA is working on the proposed rule to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA. In the absence of the rule, EPA has used its existing authorities to compel cleanups.
Highlighted Action: Monitoring
- In July 2020, EPA transmitted the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 5 (UCMR 5) proposal to OMB for interagency review. Consistent with EPA’s commitment in the PFAS Action Plan and the requirements of the FY 2020 NDAA, EPA anticipates proposing nationwide drinking water monitoring for PFAS under UCMR 5 utilizing new methods that can detect PFAS that could not be detected before as the new methods detect more PFAS chemicals at lower concentrations than previously possible.
Highlighted Action: Toxics
- In September 2019, EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory toxic chemical list.
- In May 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that added a list of 172 PFAS chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory reporting as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
- In July 2020, EPA issued a final regulation that can stop products containing PFAS from entering or reentering the marketplace without EPA’s explicit permission.
Highlighted Action: Surface Water Protection
- EPA is exploring data availability and research to support the development of Clean Water Act human health and aquatic life criteria for PFAS.
- EPA is examining available information about PFAS discharges in surface waters to identify industrial sources that may warrant further study for potential regulation.
Highlighted Action: Biosolids
- EPA is developing a risk assessment to better understand the potential public health and ecological risks associated with PFOA and PFOS in land-applied biosolids.
Highlighted Action: Scientific Leadership
- In August 2020, EPA awarded $4.8 million in funding for new research on managing PFAS in agriculture.
- EPA continues to compile and assess human and ecological toxicity information on PFAS to support risk management decisions.
- EPA continues to develop new methods to test for additional PFAS in drinking water.
- The agency is also validating analytical methods for surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soils, sediments and biosolids; developing new methods to test for PFAS in air and emissions; and improving laboratory methods to discover unknown PFAS.
- EPA is developing exposure models to understand how PFAS moves through the environment to impact people and ecosystems.
- EPA is working to develop tools to assist officials with the cleanup of contaminated sites.
- In May 2020, EPA announced that it is expanding its research efforts and capabilities by launching its PFAS Innovative Treatment Team (PITT).
- In July 2020, EPA added new treatment information for removing PFAS in drinking water.
Highlighted Action: Technical Assistance
- Just as important as the progress on PFAS at the federal level, is EPA efforts to form partnerships with states, tribes, and local communities across the country.
- EPA has provided assistance to more than 30 states to help address PFAS, and the agency is continuing to build on this support.
- These joint projects allow EPA to take the knowledge of its world class scientists and apply it in a collaborative fashion where it counts most.
Highlighted Action: Enforcement
- EPA uses enforcement tools, when appropriate, to address PFAS exposure in the environment and assists states in enforcement activities.
- EPA has already taken actions to address PFAS, including issuing Safe Drinking Water Act orders and providing support to states. See examples in the PFAS Action Plan.
- In May 2020, EPA and Swix Sport USA finalized an agreement resolving Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) violations associated with the importation of noncompliant ski wax products containing PFAS.
Highlighted Action: Risk Communications
- EPA is working collaboratively to develop a risk communication toolbox that includes multi-media materials and messaging for federal, state, tribal, and local partners to use with the public.
Additional information about PFAS can be found at: www.epa.gov/pfas