A new technology known as Downhole Foam Fractionation (DFF), developed by scientists at OPEC Systems, is poised to provide a breakthrough for Australian communities experiencing PFAS ground water contamination.
The technology simply and effectively isolates and removes problematic PFAS (per-and poly-flouroalkyl substances) from affected sites, with testing results showing removal of more than 99 per cent of PFAS contaminants within minutes.
PFAS are organic pollutants of concern found in ground water beneath fire training grounds where a particular type of now-discontinued fire fighting foam was used.
In 2009, PFOS (one of many PFAS compounds) was listed as a persistent organic pollutant by the United Nations Environment Program. Today there is widespread concern regarding the potential for long term health risks to people and the environment from PFOS and a variety of other PFAS compounds.
OPEC Systems has been working on a solution to this problem for several years in collaboration with industry, government and specialist tertiary institutions.
“This is a pivotal moment for the many PFAS affected communities, with our technology having the potential to successfully treat thousands of sites whose groundwater is contaminated with PFAS both in Australia and worldwide. We’re very proud to bring DFF to the market,” said OPEC Environmental Division Manager, Steve Phillips.
“Importantly, DFF is a simple, clean and cost effective innovation that causes zero environmental harm. We simply put air in and take PFAS out,” he said.
DFF involves the installation of cleverly designed and strategically positioned ground-water wells at affected sites, and the creation of bubble columns within the wells which ‘foam out’ the PFAS compounds.
The DFF system collects the problematic PFAS contaminants within the foam, and a foam harvesting system is used to remove the PFAS-rich concentrate from the wells, where it is further treated before being taken offsite and destroyed.
“The elegance of the DFF approach is that it relies on the natural foaming characteristics of the PFAS compounds to remove them from water, and it allows us to do this in an environmentally friendly way.”
“During the initial testing phase, we worked on a variety of promising technologies, but DFF significantly outperformed all the other approaches. In fact, when the initial test results came back, we assumed they must be incorrect. We retested, and were stunned with the results and their implications.”
“PFAS have unique properties that make them difficult to break down naturally in the environment, which is why an effective solution to the problem has been such a long time coming.