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Case Studies
Dec 9, 2021

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam Treatment under Alkaline Hydrothermal Conditions

Publication: Journal of Environmental Engineering
Volume 148, Issue 2

Abstract

Historical use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) has led to widespread contamination of water and soil, due to the high per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) content in AFFF. Due to the high toxicity and environmental persistence of PFAS, legacy AFFF is being phased out, and end-of-life disposal options are needed. While incineration has historically been the preferred disposal option for AFFF, the practice is being phased out due to mounting concerns around the emission of harmful byproducts. Hydrothermal alkaline treatment (HALT) is an effective PFAS destruction process, which has been previously shown to generate no toxic PFAS degradation byproducts. In this case study, HALT is evaluated as an end-of-life destruction option for AFFF stockpiles. A legacy AFFF sample containing 3.2  wt% total PFAS is treated at 350°C, >20.7  MPa, 5 M-NaOH loading, and residence times of 2 to 6 h in a batch reactor setup. In two cases, a proprietary catalytic surface is introduced, which is demonstrated to increase the rate and extent of PFAS destruction. Forty PFAS analytes are measured before and after HALT treatment to quantify destruction efficacy and to demonstrate that all PFAS are degraded during processing. Ion chromatography is used to quantify fluoride yield at one condition, where 120.5% theoretical defluorination efficiency is measured. This indicates that HALT is effective at degrading detected and undetected PFAS, through cleavage of the strong carbon-fluorine bonds. Overall, HALT appears to be a technically viable option for safe disposal of legacy AFFF stockpiles.

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Supplemental Materials

File (supplemental_materials_ee.1943-7870.0001974_pinkard.pdf)

Data Availability Statement

All data generated during the study appears in the published article.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Grant 2037740. Special thanks to SGS, Inc. for performing LC-MS/MS analysis on treated and untreated AFFF samples. The author declares the following competing financial interest: BRP is a primary shareholder in Aquagga, Inc. which is commercializing hydrothermal PFAS destruction technologies.

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Go to Journal of Environmental Engineering
Journal of Environmental Engineering
Volume 148Issue 2February 2022

History

Received: Aug 17, 2021
Accepted: Oct 27, 2021
Published online: Dec 9, 2021
Published in print: Feb 1, 2022
Discussion open until: May 9, 2022

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Authors

Affiliations

Chief Technology Officer, Aquagga Inc., 326 E D St., Tacoma, WA 98421; Affiliate Assistant Professor, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Univ. of Washington, 3900 E Stevens Way, Seattle, WA 98195. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4517-4712. Email: [email protected]

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Cited by

  • Hydrothermal alkaline defluorination rate of perfluorocarboxylic acids ( PFCAs ) , Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology, 10.1002/jctb.7333, (2023).
  • Review: Hydrothermal treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), Chemosphere, 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2022.135888, 307, (135888), (2022).
  • Validation of supercritical water oxidation to destroy perfluoroalkyl acids, Remediation Journal, 10.1002/rem.21711, 32, 1-2, (75-90), (2022).

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