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Strategic PFAS treatment not always expensive, expert says

With PFAS treatment a growing concern for many wastewater facilities, the effect of new chemicals and bacteria on the stubborn substances has been trialed in order to uncover non-conventional pathways for removal.

Set to present at the upcoming Australian Water Association NQ Conference, GHD Process Engineer Ali Farhat said the company has been working with a wastewater client to test different PFAS removal options.

“Our client has an industrial wastewater site with a legacy of PFAS being present in its wastewater,” Farhat said.

“Their wastewater is also full of other things like suspended solids, nitrogen, and metals. So it is not only a PFAS problem, but because their PFAS levels are relatively low and not much higher than the target, they want to find the best approach without having to spend millions of dollars.”

Farhat said that conventional PFAS treatment processes usually involve expensive expertise and equipment, but other avenues for effective treatment are also possible.

“Usually you don’t treat PFAS, you pay a company to treat it for you. It’s a guaranteed low-risk treatment, but it’s very expensive. We wanted to see if there is another way, a non-conventional treatment that can be applied in-house,” he said.

GHD’s trials involved adding a chemical additive that binds to PFAS and a biological treatment using bacteria developed to remove PFAS. These are considered non-conventional, as conventional treatments usually involve activated carbon or ion exchange resins.

Farhat said spending huge amounts of money to meet regulatory requirements is not always a viable or cost-effective management strategy.

“If you are not looking for removing PFAS by several orders of magnitude, but only about 50-70% removal, then there is no need to go for state-of-the-art technologies,” he said.

“This is site specific, of course; there are always other things around PFAS, either metals or hydrocarbon, or other nutrients. But there is a lot of opportunity for non-conventional solutions to PFAS removal to be applied on site.

“It’s always worth checking if you can employ a non-conventional treatment method to meet appropriate PFAS levels, because there might be feasible and economical applications available, rather than going for the expensive solution.”

Register for the Australian Water Association NQ Conference to hear more from Ali Farhat about non-conventional PFAS treatment options.

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