The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, and State Partners Announce Winners of International Challenge Seeking Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS in Firefighting Foam
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) Challenge, a partnership between federal and state agencies focused on identifying ways to destroy PFAS in concentrated aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a type of firefighting foam. This Challenge is part of the Agency’s efforts, including Administrator Regan’s new “EPA Council on PFAS,” to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by these chemicals.
“The innovative technologies developed by the challenge winners will help reduce exposure to PFAS and reduce the impacts of these chemicals on the environment,” said Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This challenge is the latest step EPA has taken to help address the effects of PFAS on human health and the environment.”
"DOD’s PFAS priorities are mitigating and eliminating the use of the current AFFF, and fulfilling our cleanup responsibility related to PFAS," said Mr. Paul Cramer, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. "Evaluating options for destroying AFFF is key to these efforts, and the results of this challenge are promising."
“The collective creativity and ingenuity of participants from diverse backgrounds is what makes challenges like this so successful. We hope rewarding the creators of these innovative concepts helps to make these technologies a reality so that federal, state, tribal, and local partners can safely destroy PFAS in firefighting foams," said Patrick McDonnell, President of the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
PFAS can be found at different concentrations in various waste streams; this challenge focused on unused AFFF because of its high concentration of PFAS and widespread use to fight fires. EPA and its partners sought technologies that showed the potential to destroy at least 99 percent of PFAS in unused AFFF – without creating harmful byproducts and using temperatures significantly lower than temperatures required for incineration. The challenge was intended to encourage the development of new approaches, technologies, or combinations of technology that had the potential to destroy PFAS.
Challenge winners include:
- First Place ($40,000 prize):
- Dr. Brian Pinkard of Aquagga Inc., for a hydrothermal processing concept using high-temperature and high-pressure water to dispose of PFAS-contaminated waste onsite that may be potentially applicable for AFFF.
- Second Place ($10,000 prize each):
- Dr. Denise Kay and Meng Wang of the Ramboll Group in Denmark and Dr. Cheng Gu of Nanjing University in China for their concept to use ultraviolet light and non-toxic additives to destroy PFAS.
- Dr. Sarah (Xiao) Wu of the University of Idaho, for her concept using a continuous flow liquid-phase plasma discharge process to destroy PFAS in AFFF.
EPA collaborated on this 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).
All submissions were evaluated by EPA scientists and key representatives from the Department of Defense. ECOS/ERIS, Michigan EGLE and CDPHE also had the opportunity to provide state-level insight for finalists.
Challenge winners will have the opportunity to submit their winning design concepts to DoD’s SERDP/ESTCP programs for further testing.
To learn more about the Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge, visit: www.epa.gov/innovation/innovative-ways-destroy-pfas-challenge .
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s and are (or have been) found in many consumer products like cookware, food packaging, and stain repellants. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, airports, and military installations that use firefighting foams, such as AFFF, are some of the main sources of PFAS. PFAS may be released into the air, soil, and water, including sources of drinking water. PFOA and PFOS are the most studied PFAS chemicals and have been voluntarily phased out by industry, though they are still persistent in the environment. There are many other PFAS in use throughout our economy. These chemicals are very bio-persistent in the environment and in the human body. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. For more information on PFAS, visit: www.epa.gov/pfas
For more information about EPA’s PFAS Research, visit: www.epa.gov/chemical-research/research-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas.