Annihilating the PFAS problem

    The elimination of forever chemicals has begun in Kent County
    Revive President and CEO David Trueba, along with staff, analyze data on the screen insdie a control booth at the Wyoming Heritage Crystal Clean wastewater treatment plant. Photo by Lisa Enos.

    While residents affected with PFAS-contaminated groundwater in Northeast Kent County continue the battle with Wolverine Worldwide to provide them with clean municipal water, a business in the other corner of the county is making history by annihilating PFAS.

    Representational illustration of PFAS elimination by James Heimer.

    Traditional methods of disposal included sending PFAS-laden waste to landfills or deep well injection sites, and thermal treatment using incineration, none of which were proven to completely destroy PFAS.

    By now, most Grand Rapidians have heard of these forever chemicals, but as a refresher or for those who are just hearing it for the first time, PFAS is an acronym that stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances– harmful chemicals that were considered impossible to break down…until now!

    The Heritage-Crystal Clean wastewater treatment plant in Wyoming is currently up and running, destroying PFAS chemicals in landfill leachate to the tune of 160,000 gallons per day (the first permitted solution in the United States) using the Battelle PFAS Annihilator™– a solution that comes with a certificate of destruction. The PFAS Annihilator is provided by Revive Environmental, a full-service, environmental contaminant mitigation and water treatment company on a mission to destroy PFAS. The technology used in the PFAS Annihilator was developed at Battelle, an applied-science lab and non-profit organization in Columbus, Ohio with a mission to “translate scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefits” and “solve what matters most.”

    According to Revive Environmental CEO David Trueba, the trademarked “Battelle PFAS Annihilator” (equimpent pictured above) was invented by repurposing technology previosly used to destroy chemical weapons. Courtesy Photo.

    What are PFAS and how did we come to be reliant on them?
    Originally designed as an armor coating in the 1940s the PFAS 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. The PFAS chemicals in these products seep into soil, and can even be found in the food supply. In 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified more than 120,000 U.S. locations where people may be exposed to PFAS.


    How did Wyoming become ground zero for annihilation of PFAS?
    In 2022, Heritage-Crystal Clean hosted a pilot-scale demonstration of the PFAS-eliminating technology. The company’spPresident and CEO Brian Recatto saw the PFAS Annihilator’s potential for leachate and the companies developed a partnership called 4never™ –– the first closed-loop PFAS remediation system which includes the PFAS Annihilator as the destruction technology. Revive’s deployment with Heritage-Crystal Clean is the first example of such a partnership.

    “Our mission is to globally restore communities’ confidence by safely and permanently destroying PFAS contamination,” said Revive President and CEO David Trueba. “We are providing a solution for this significant challenge.”

    Water samples at different points along the PFAS-elimination process. Photo by Lisa Enos.

    In this first deployment in Michigan, Heritage-Crystal Clean will work with multiple landfills, transporting, separating, and concentrating their leachate. As the PFAS Annihilator comes up to full capacity, it will process between 300 to 500 gallons of concentrated landfill leachate per day (representing 300,000 to 500,000 gallons of raw leachate) to completely destroy the PFAS contained in it. Once the contaminated fluids are processed by the PFAS Annihilator, the only byproducts remaining, says the company, are clean effluent water, carbon dioxide and inert salts.

    In addition to other environmental services, the company manages wastewater treatment facilities, and they are the first company to commercially treat and remove PFAS. With the proven technology in hand, the goal is to deploy Battelle PFAS Annihilator’s™ at all their facilities in the future.

    The PFAS Annihilator is not limited to destroying PFAS in landfill leachate; it can process aqueous PFAS waste from multiple sites and sources and for other applications that include industrial wastewater, soil remediation and Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting foams.

    Heritage Crystal-Clean will discharge the clean effluent water to publicly owned water treatment works. Heritage-Crystal Clean maintains a discharge permit that includes regular monitoring to confirm compliance with discharge limits. In Michigan, state and local regulatory agencies have already conducted multiple inspections and concur that the process is protective of human health and the environment. Engineering calculations have confirmed that discharges to the atmosphere are negligible. Plans and permits are all in place to confirm ongoing environmental compliance.

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