EPA is releasing the interim guidance for public comment. The guidance provides information on technologies that may be feasible and appropriate for the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. It also identifies needed and ongoing research and development activities related to destruction and disposal technologies, which may inform future guidance.
The interim guidance addresses PFAS and PFAS-containing materials including:
The agency is also providing guidance on testing and monitoring air, effluent, and soil for releases near potential destruction or disposal sites. EPA’s interim guidance captures the significant information gaps associated with PFAS testing and monitoring and identifies specific research needs.
The interim guidance is intended to assemble and consolidate information in a single document that generally describes thermal treatment, landfill, and underground injection technologies that may be effective in the destruction or disposal of PFAS and PFAS-containing materials.
As further research and development occur on this issue, EPA will incorporate this increased knowledge into future versions of this guidance to help decision-makers choose the most appropriate PFAS disposal options for their particular circumstances. EPA will review and revise the interim guidance, as appropriate, or at least once every 3 years.
See the EPA website: EPA Interim Guidance on Destruction and Disposal of PFAS.
Instructions: All submissions received must include Docket ID No EPA-HQ-OLEM-2020-0527 for this rulemaking. Comments received may be posted without change to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. You may send comments by any of the following methods:
According to Waste Dive, the document is the first such federal guidance on the destruction or disposal of PFAS or PFAS-containing materials. It describes the available science used in three major techniques: deep well injection, landfilling and thermal treatment. Acknowledging uncertainty about potential environmental effects, the EPA proposed the interim storage of PFAS-containing waste until further research can “reduce the uncertainties associated with other options.”
Industry groups such as the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) said they are analyzing the document and discussing with their members, such as SCS Engineers what the interim guidance means for daily landfill operations. The trade groups will submit comments on the document by the Feb. 22 deadline.
PFAS are a class of synthetic fluorinated chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products, including defense‐related applications. They are persistent, found at low levels in the environment, and bio‐accumulate. Studies have shown these compounds being detected more often in surface water, sediments and/or bioaccumulated into fish tissue. Because of the greater affinity of longer chain per‐ and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) compounds for fish than other environmental matrices, certain compounds are often found in fish tissue, but not in the water or sediment. Table 1 shows average concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in landfill leachates around the world. The USEPA health advisory level is 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS.
Table 1. Concentrations of PFAS compounds in Landfill Leachate around the world
Treatment Options for PFOS and PFOA
The removal of PFASs from drinking water has been the USEPA’s national priority. Recent discoveries of PFAS/PFOS in drinking water in multiple states in the US has heightened interest in these emerging contaminants. Federal, state, and local agencies are formulating regulatory limits that vary greatly. These limits seem to be centered on drinking water, but these developments are driving disposal of existing stores of chemicals containing PFAS/PFOS and environmental media contaminated with PFAS/PFOS
Treatment processes that can remove PFAS chemicals from drinking water may include high-pressure membrane systems such as RO, granular activated carbon (GAC), or ion exchange as shown in Figure 1. The more conventional water treatment technologies such as (e.g., aeration) are not typically effective.
Figure 1. PFAS Removal Processes (a) Membranes, (b) GAC and (c) Ion Exchange Resins
Landfill Leachate RO Treatment Plant – New Hanover County, North Carolina
New Hanover County upgraded its leachate treatment system to meet stricter regulatory standards for surface water discharges, particularly standards relating to metals (arsenic) and ammonia. Sampling by NC DEQ showed the new RO plant is filtering out PFAS. Table 2 shows the results from February 2019.
Figure 2. New Hanover County Leachate and PFAS Treatment Plant
Table 2. Concentrations of PFAS compounds in Leachate at New Hanover County Landfill
|PFAS Constituent||Raw||Treated||Surface water|
|PFOA (ppt)||1,250||< 0.6||3.9|
|PFOS (ppt)||228||< 0.6||7.1|
Comparison of GAC Types for PFOA and PFOS Removal
Four different types of GAC, i.e., Re-agglomerated Bituminous, Lignite, Enhanced Coconut and Enhanced Coconut (Blend) were evaluated under identical operating conditions and influent water quality. Figure 4 shows results from these four GAC products for PFOA/PFOS removal vs time.
Figure 4. GAC Treatability study for removal of PFOA and PFOS
Re-agglomerated bituminous coal GAC (FILTRASORB) significantly outperformed: Lignite, Enhanced Coconut and Enhanced Coconut (Blend).
PFAS compounds are of concern because they do not break down in the environment, bioaccumulate in humans and biota, and may pose risks to human health
GAC, Synthetic adsorbent, and ion exchange resins are widely used for PFAS removal. Capacity and leakage of PFASs into the treated water varies depending on the specific PFASs, the type of adsorbent used.
PFAS removal may be influenced by pH, water temperature, contact time, Natural Organic Matter, and chlorine. For complete PFAS removal, a polishing may be required.
Disposal methods for PFAS waste streams include high-temperature incineration or landfilling. Landfilling is not favored since the PFAS load would increase, and many landfills will not accept PFAS waste.
About the Author: Dr. deSilva is SCS’s Director of Wastewater Treatment. He has 30 years of progressive experience in wastewater engineering, from concept through construction and start-up, and is an international leader in operations and maintenance, energy management, solids handling processes, construction management, and commissioning wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) around the world.
We recommend reading this article series to stay abreast of relevant knowledge from Bryan Staley, president and CEO of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF); Anne Germain, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA); Viraj deSilva, SCS Engineers wastewater treatment director; and testing results from New Hanover County whose capital investment in landfill infrastructure has proven to successfully treat effluent water to meet higher standards.
This EREF Summit will bring together practicing engineers, academics, industry professionals, government personnel and policymakers to facilitate discussion and provide various perspectives on the management, issues, and policies related to PFAS.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of compounds that are man-made and are commonly used in industrial processes and consumer products such as food packaging, fire-fighting foams, metal plating, outdoor gear, popcorn bags, food wrappers, facial moisturizers, mattresses, carpeting, and cookware. Despite the widespread use of PFAS in everyday products, there are still significant knowledge gaps associated with the management of these compounds.
SCS Engineers is a sponsor of this EREF Summit. Liquids Management at SCS Engineers