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Ground-breaking PFAS study takes place at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

From left, Treva Bashore, restoration program manager, AFCEC/CZOM Civil Engineer Center, Rebecca Mora, project manager, AECOM, and Amir Mott, deputy director, 88th Civil Engineer Group,  discuss where the PFAS-contaminated groundwater was extracted at the fire training area of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on Sept. 29, 2020. U.S. Air Force personnel from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center are leading a pilot study of new remediation techniques that can remove and destroy per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from contaminated groundwater. PFAS is a group of chemicals, some of which were formerly used in aircraft fire fighting foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

From left, Treva Bashore, restoration program manager, AFCEC/CZOM Civil Engineer Center, Rebecca Mora, project manager, AECOM, and Amir Mott, deputy director, 88th Civil Engineer Group, discuss where the PFAS-contaminated groundwater was extracted at the fire training area of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on Sept. 29, 2020. U.S. Air Force personnel from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center are leading a pilot study of new remediation techniques that can remove and destroy per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from contaminated groundwater. PFAS is a group of chemicals, some of which were formerly used in aircraft fire fighting foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

Dr. Shangtao Liang, right, electrochemical oxidation subject matter expert and principal investigator, AECOM, describes the DE-FLUOROTM process to George Walters, supervisory environmental engineer, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on Sept. 29, 2020. DE-FLUOROTM electrochemical oxidation is the final step to remediate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from groundwater near the base fire training area.  This project is the first field demonstration using the electrochemical oxidation technology for PFAS destruction. PFAS is a group of chemicals, some of which were formerly used in aircraft fire fighting foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

Dr. Shangtao Liang, right, electrochemical oxidation subject matter expert and principal investigator, AECOM, describes the DE-FLUOROTM process to George Walters, supervisory environmental engineer, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on Sept. 29, 2020. DE-FLUOROTM electrochemical oxidation is the final step to remediate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from groundwater near the base fire training area. This project is the first field demonstration using the electrochemical oxidation technology for PFAS destruction. PFAS is a group of chemicals, some of which were formerly used in aircraft fire fighting foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

Brad Geisman, left, pilot engineer, and Dan Casey, lead field operations engineer for Emerging Compounds Treatment Technologies (ECT2), discuss the patented regenerable ion exchange (SORBIX RePURE) water  treatment system being used to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from groundwater at the fire training area of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on Sept. 29, 2020.  U.S. Air Force personnel from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center are leading the study of combining proven remediation techniques that can remove PFAS with new destruction technologies to  destroy the PFAS. PFAS are a group of chemicals, some of which were formerly used in aircraft fire fighting foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

Brad Geisman, left, pilot engineer, and Dan Casey, lead field operations engineer for Emerging Compounds Treatment Technologies (ECT2), discuss the patented regenerable ion exchange (SORBIX RePURE) water treatment system being used to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from groundwater at the fire training area of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on Sept. 29, 2020. U.S. Air Force personnel from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center are leading the study of combining proven remediation techniques that can remove PFAS with new destruction technologies to destroy the PFAS. PFAS are a group of chemicals, some of which were formerly used in aircraft fire fighting foam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A pilot PFAS (per- and polyfluroalkyl substances) study took place at the base Fire Training Area September 29, under an Air Force Civil Engineering Center (AFCEC) Broad Agency Announcement contract.

The study is being led by AFCEC Environmental Restoration, with primary contractor, AECOM, as well as teaming partners University of Georgia and Emerging Compounds Treatment Technologies (ECT2). PFAS are a class of highly-stable synthetic compounds used in firefighting by the military and widely used in manufacturing as they resist heat, oil, stains and water.

Amir Mott, deputy director of the 88th Civil Engineering Group, was on hand to explain the importance of the study, stating, "The stability of PFAS compounds makes them difficult to destroy, especially after they inadvertently enter the environment. Out of the thousands of PFAS compounds, there is heightened regulatory concern over two in particular:  PFOS and PFOA."

“It is great to be out here, seeing what the team has been working on,” he said. “There's a lot of hard work that's going into coupling existing technologies and new technologies to create a brand new treatment train approach to help with the vast problem of destroying and getting rid of the PFAS that is prevalent.”

Mott said, “The team is doing great work, and Wright-Patt was very happy to be a pilot base for these technologies. Our contractor and AFCEC restoration teams are doing just a tremendous job, and we look forward to seeing how this is going to be scalable and help us overcome the challenges that we're facing. Not only for here at Wright-Patt, but how it impacts our local community as well. Again, we're just very happy with being a pilot base to field this technology approach.”

“We were very pleased that the Air Force supported the first-ever field demonstration of our on-site PFAS destruction technology DE-FLUORO,” said Rebecca Mora, AECOM project manager. “There were several things going on at the site in tandem to accomplish project objectives. First, ECT2’s established regenerable ion exchange resin technology, SORBIX RePURE, was used to separate PFAS from site groundwater.  Once exhausted, the resin is regenerated for reuse, which includes a distillation process to produce a highly-concentrated, low-volume PFAS waste referred to as still bottom.  Our DE-FLUORO technology then destroys the concentrated PFAS in the still bottom using electrochemical oxidation.  The overall treatment process has achieved non-detect levels of PFOS and PFOA in the treated groundwater discharge while the removed PFAS are concentrated and destroyed onsite.” This pilot system has treated over 500,000 gallons of PFAS-impacted groundwater at two sites at Wright-Patterson. 

Mora explained that AECOM teamed up with the University of Georgia to use a proprietary electrochemical oxidation process that destroys the PFAS contained in the SORBIX RePURE still bottoms.  The US Air Force supported this first-ever field demonstration of electrochemical oxidation for on-site destruction of PFAS.  It is also the first field demonstration that couples regenerable ion exchange resin with a PFAS destruction technology.

This treatment approach can remove contaminants from ground water, thus protecting the on-base and off-base community. Additionally, other military installations where PFAS occur will benefit from the results of this pilot study.