Firefighting foam for a very long time contained PFAS, known as “ceaselessly chemical compounds” as a result of it doesn’t degrade within the atmosphere. It’s additionally suspected to trigger most cancers in firefighters who’ve to make use of it to place out fires primarily involving jet gasoline, gasoline or diesel.
Fireplace departments across the nation have been retiring their outdated foam, known as AFFF, in favor of recent foams that aren’t poisonous to folks and the atmosphere. However the issue stays: what to do with these a whole bunch of gallons of outdated foam sitting round in hearth departments.
In North Carolina, the Workplace of the State Fireplace Marshal instructed departments to stock all their outdated foam and report back to the state if they’d to make use of it, in response to Waxhaw Fireplace Chief Gregory Sharpe.
Waxhaw is a small city south of Charlotte, not removed from the South Carolina border.
“We discovered all the froth we had at each stations, moved all of it to our fundamental station, tucked it away and have been simply ready for some type of steering on the way to do away with it,” he mentioned. All instructed, they’d about 225 gallons.
That is the place an organization known as Battelle is available in. It is a nonprofit scientific group. A separate firm, known as GreenFire, transports the outdated foam and replaces it with a brand new, safer various.
“A number of years in the past after we noticed PFAS turning into a problem within the atmosphere, we invested in applied sciences for treating, disposal and destruction of PFAS,” mentioned Battelle’s Amy Dindal.
They labored with the know-how for a few years and got here up with what they name the PFAS Annihilator, a system that truly destroys the chemical compounds that make PFAS dangerous for the atmosphere, she mentioned.
The nonprofit got here up with a cellular system that they’ll ship out to communities that may destroy the outdated foam. Then GreenFire will exchange the outdated poisonous foam with a a lot safer hearth foam.
“It seems like, truly, a meals truck, is the construction itself,” she mentioned. They completed their first cellular “PFAS Annihilator” in February. It traveled to North Carolina for its first check with hearth combating foam, these 225 gallons that had been sitting in storage on the Waxhaw Fireplace Division.
“This isn’t simply lowering or minimizing a menace, that is eliminating a menace to our firefighters,” the fireplace chief mentioned.
This was the primary time Battelle had labored with a fireplace division to destroy its poisonous foam. The group bought a short lived EPA allow to return to North Carolina and check out the method. And so they’re listening to curiosity from different states looking for a protected solution to get rid of AFFF.
Up subsequent for the PFAS Annihilator trailer, Battelle has a contract with the Division of Protection to take the cellular know-how round to air drive bases to assist clear up groundwater contaminated with PFAS, Dindal mentioned.
“It most likely will come again to North Carolina sooner or later,” she mentioned.
How does it work?
There’s been plenty of consideration on PFAS lately as states and communities realized how a lot contamination was on the market in waterways and groundwater.
In North Carolina, a PFAS chemical known as Gen-X has polluted the Cape Worry River and surrounding groundwater, forcing cities to improve water remedy crops and making folks on nicely water change to bottled water.
PFAS air pollution exhibits up round airports, the place hearth departments have skilled for years with the AFFF foam. States and environmental organizations across the nation are recurrently discovering new websites with PFAS contamination.
The brand new know-how from Battelle truly breaks down the chemical bonds within the PFAS to show them into inert byproducts. It’s primarily based on one thing known as “supercritical water oxidation.”
Battelle’s Dindal defined in a short chemistry lesson: The method will increase the stress and temperature on the PFAS, which helps it oxidize. That assist break the carbon-fluorine bond. Then they’ve carbon dioxide and hyrodflourine, which turns into an acid. Then they neutralize that and dissolve it in freshwater.
What’s left after the method is all inert supplies that may safely be disposed of with out leaving any “ceaselessly chemical compounds” within the atmosphere.
Dindal mentioned Battelle is making much more cellular items to ship out across the nation to start out cleansing up PFAS contamination. She mentioned they need to be hitting the street subsequent 12 months.