This editorial originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of WWD as "But What Happens Next?"
In late August, I attended The Water Expo in Miami, Fla., where I heard the most compelling per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS) presentation I’ve experienced. I knew most of the background as I’m sure many of this audience does. And I’m sure many of you reading also know the technology and resources available to remove PFAS from water and wastewater.
The presentation focused on carbon-based filtration—more specifically granular activated carbon filtration to remove the organics—with ion-exchange in addition. Each of the methods were effective to differing degrees, but one question lingered after all the discussion about how to remove the chemical from water.
What happens to the PFAS after it is removed?
One of the most troubling aspects of per- and polyflouroalkyl substances is not only its pervasiveness, but also its resilience and robustness. These fully flourinated carbon chains do not burn, nor do they break. So when these chemicals are removed from water, there isn’t a clear idea about what to do with them afterward.
Certainly removing it before it is ingested by humans is important. The chemicals have been linked to several adverse health effects after all. But just how far down the road will the can be kicked? What avenues really are there for dealing with the chemicals after they’ve been removed other than far-flung ideas of sending it on a missile directly into the sun?
It’s an interesting quandary and one that has enveloped me since attending that session. Perhaps you have some thoughts on it that you’re willing to share. If so, send me an email at [email protected].