A local engineering firm has received a new grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency. It’s intended to help them develop new technology that will hopefully aid in the removal of harmful man-made chemicals from the environment.
Also known as forever chemicals, PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are used in a range of things — like firefighting foam, anti-stick pots and pans, and even some furniture. Some research suggests PFAS chemicals are toxic to human beings. What is known for sure is that PFAS have extremely strong chemical bonds — which means they’re very difficult to break down. PFAS stick around for a long time in the water and in the soil, and in the human body.
Faraday Technology in Englewood is working on a solution. The company is using a process called electrochemical destruction. Dr. E.J. Taylor is the founder of the firm. He says, “People are looking at all kinds of approaches to destroy these PFAS materials. And, incineration doesn’t work. In terms of landfilling there’s concern that it’s going to eventually get out. So what people have also shown is that you can electro-chemically break down these very strong bonds.”
Instead of a direct current, Faraday’s technology pulses currents of electricity back and forth between electrodes thousands of times per second. Dr. Taylor says that the EPA is interested in using this technology to clean up PFAS on-site, like in contaminated soil around old industrial plants or in the discharge from waste-water treatment plants.
Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.