The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of the Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge, a partnership between federal and state agencies focused on identifying ways to destroy PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in concentrated aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a type of firefighting foam. This Challenge is part of the Agency’s efforts, including Administrator Regan’s new “EPA Council on PFAS,” to better understand and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by these chemicals.
“The innovative technologies developed by the challenge winners will help reduce exposure to PFAS and reduce the impacts of these chemicals on the environment,” said Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This challenge is the latest step EPA has taken to help address the effects of PFAS on human health and the environment.”
PFAS can be found at different concentrations in various waste streams; this challenge focused on unused AFFF because of its high concentration of PFAS and widespread use to fight fires. EPA and its partners sought technologies that showed the potential to destroy at least 99 percent of PFAS in unused AFFF—without creating harmful byproducts and using temperatures significantly lower than temperatures required for incineration. The challenge was intended to encourage the development of new approaches, technologies, or combinations of technology that had the potential to destroy PFAS.
- First Place ($40,000 prize): Dr. Brian Pinkard of Aquagga Inc., for a hydrothermal processing concept using high-temperature and high-pressure water to dispose of PFAS-contaminated waste onsite that may be potentially applicable for AFFF.
- Second Place ($10,000 prize each):
- Dr. Denise Kay and Meng Wang of the Ramboll Group in Denmark and Dr. Cheng Gu of Nanjing University in China for their concept to use ultraviolet light and non-toxic additives to destroy PFAS.
- Dr. Sarah (Xiao) Wu of the University of Idaho, for her concept using a continuous flow liquid-phase plasma discharge process to destroy PFAS in AFFF.
EPA collaborated on this challenge with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP); the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and the Environmental Research Institute of the States (ERIS); Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE); and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
All submissions were evaluated by EPA scientists and key representatives from the Department of Defense. ECOS/ERIS, Michigan EGLE and CDPHE also had the opportunity to provide state-level insight for finalists.
Challenge winners will have the opportunity to submit their winning design concepts to DoD’s SERDP/ESTCP programs for further testing.
To learn more about the Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge, visit epa.gov/innovation/innovative-ways-destroy-pfas-challenge.