In July 2020, we posted on takeback disposal options for some PFAS-containing firefighting foams, with a caveat about recent actions taken by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) to suspend incineration of AFFF that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) had sent to a hazardous waste facility in Cohoes, NY, pending the results of environmental sampling in the nearby community. In late August 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a partnership with DoD and state and local partners to identify innovative ways to destroy PFAS in AFFF. The “Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge” may sound like the latest television reality competition show, but the aim is to support the development of non-thermal technologies to destroy PFAS. A prize of up to $50,000 is being offered for “the best design concept to safely destroy the chemical” – that is, technologies and approaches that can remove at least 99 percent of PFAS in unused AFFF, without creating any harmful byproducts. EPA says that the ideal technology that it hopes to see developed as a result of the Challenge would:

  • Perform onsite destruction of at least 99 percent of PFAS in AFFF formulations;
  • Be currently on the market or near market;
  • Destroy parent PFAS compounds;
  • Destroy short-chain PFAS byproducts if volatilization occurs;
  • Destroy or neutralize any unkdwanted byproducts that would need to be incinerated or landfilled in a hazardous waste facility;
  • Be more cost effective than thermal destruction;
  • Have good environmental and public health outcomes (e.g., does not transfer PFAS or any unwanted byproducts into other media, and does not create other toxic residues after destruction of PFAS);
  • Be potentially applicable to other PFAS waste streams (e.g., biosolids, contaminated ground water, etc.).

More information can be found at EPA’s dedicated webpage for the Challenge, including eligibility requirements and judging criteria.