PFAS Is Raising Multiple Concerns. This Line of Adsorptive Products Can Be Part of the Remedy.

A new adsorptive medium is designed to provide effective treatment and control of PFAS in drinking water, wastewater and other applications.

PFAS Is Raising Multiple Concerns. This Line of Adsorptive Products Can Be Part of the Remedy.

The adsorbent product can be deployed as a permeable reactive barrier to isolate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and prevent its spread. 

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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have come under a harsh spotlight as a new threat to environmental health.

These substances — found most notably in firefighting foams and fire retardant materials, but also in many other common products — are suspected of potentially causing health effects such as hindering growth and learning in infants and children, interfering with the body’s natural hormones, weakening the immune system and increasing the risk of cancer.

As concerns have arisen about the presence of these substances in drinking water, wastewater effluent and biosolids, utilities are looking for ways to treat for them. Now CETCO, a Minerals Technologies company, has developed a treatment for multiple varieties of PFAS.

FLUORO-SORB adsorbent is a proprietary, NSF-certified product designed to bind the entire spectrum of PFAS in a wide range of removal and remediation applications. Peter Ceribelli, vice president of the Environmental Products and Building Materials Group with CETCO, talked about the product in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

What is the general nature of your company’s business?

Ceribelli: We are a specialty minerals resource technology company that produces and markets a broad variety of mineral-based and synthetic mineral products. We own the mineral deposits that are the sources of our products. We mine the material, modify it, process it, and package and deliver it directly to customers; we are fully integrated from mine to market. Our products have been used in large, broad-scale applications and high-profile projects, including Superfund site remediations.

In what applications would FLUORO-SORB be used in the water and wastewater treatment sectors?

Ceribelli: We see the products as broadly applicable. We offer four grades of the product, and three of them are applicable in the water space, mainly in flow-through filtration for water and wastewater. For drinking water filtration, the product has NSF certification. We can treat high and low concentrations of PFAS. Broadly speaking, there aren’t many water-based applications that we can’t deal with.

Given that concerns have been raised about PFAS in biosolids, do the products have applications in that area?

Ceribelli: That is an area we are still evaluating.

What applications are there outside of water and wastewater treatment?

Ceribelli: In addition to flow-through filtration applications, one of our formulations has a fairly small grain size developed for in situ stabilization applications to contain PFAS contamination sources and prevent further contamination migration. We can also incorporate the product into a geosynthetic clay liner and use that as a reactive layer for contaminated sediment applications.

 In what kinds of situations would that apply?

Ceribelli: It could be a product manufacturer, landfill or Department of Defense site — all potential ongoing contributors of PFAS to groundwater and where there’s a need to prevent further spreading of the material. You can contain those sites in either of two ways: You can stabilize the source itself, or you can install a permeable reactive barrier or other type of containment zone to filter contaminated groundwater as it passes through as a way to prevent further contamination of the groundwater.

In a water or wastewater treatment plant setting, where in the process would these products be deployed?

Ceribelli: They would be used in filtration in a manner very similar to the way granular activated carbon is used. It would be a replacement or pretreatment for GAC. In head-to-head comparisons, our studies indicate that FLUORO-SORB adsorbent has about four times the adsorptive capacity of GAC.

Is the material regenerated in the manner of GAC?

Ceribelli: No. The method commonly used by customers for spent product is disposal in an offsite regulated landfill. In our testing, using a variety of U.S. EPA desorption studies, we have not seen any significant desorption from the material. Studies are ongoing, but our data suggests that once the PFAS is adsorbed, it does not desorb.

Can you describe in physical or chemical terms how this product functions?

Ceribelli: It is a bentonite that is surface-modified to enhance the adsorption of PFAS molecules. The exact nature of the surface modification is proprietary.

What is the status of these products in terms of commercial availability?

Ceribelli: As of last December, we had more than 10 field-level pilot tests in process. We have a full-scale, commercial ISO-certified plant in the U.S. that produces the material.

How would you characterize the interest in these products so far?

Ceribelli: We had a lot of interest at WEFTEC and in connection with the product launch we did last summer. That is driving the pilot-scale tests we’re working on today. We’ve also received favorable feedback on work we did in our performance testing program. We believe this product is well positioned to respond to what appears to be an emerging problem in the U.S. and globally.  


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