econ has taken on the challenge of finding a sustainable solution for the remediation of a group of contaminants. Yet still little understood but already of growing concern worldwide – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or short PFAS.
Although research into the remediation of PFAS contaminated sites is still in its infancy, it is widely believed that thermal treatment is the only viable option. econ’s engineers have been experimenting and researching this topic. They found out that the treatment of PFAS contaminated material with vacuum thermal desorption is not only possible. It will in fact lead to superior results when compared to conventional thermal treatment. This is not least because of the high energy efficiency of the VacuDry© vacuum distillation process compared to direct incineration and low emissions resulting from the vacuum.
econ has scheduled a laboratory feasibility study in the coming months to determine necessary temperatures and treatment times to achieve satisfactory clean-up rates. From that we can chose the best suited type of VacuDry® technology. For temperatures above 450 °C, our newly developed electrically heated unit can be utilised. If much higher temperatures are necessary, a second process step can be added after pre-treatment in our VacuDry® process.
PFAS comprises over 200 individual compounds which are resistant to heat (up to a certain temperature), water, and oil and as such are or were used widely in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products, for example fire fighting foam.
Due to their resistance they are very persistent in the environment and do not at all or only very slowly degrade. In addition, they also bioaccumulate which means their concentration increases over time in the blood and organs. Although there are over 200 compounds known, two are commonly used to assess the contamination level of soil and water. These are polyfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and polyfluoroocantoid acid (PFOA). The use of PFOA has been drastically reduced over the last decade or so. However, the concern for these chemicals has grown steadily and is now the topic number one in most remediation industry and research groups.
With the current research econ industries hopes to contribute in a meaningful way to the scientific discussion.