VICKSBURG, Miss. – A U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Environmental Laboratory (ERDC-EL) team led by Research Engineer Dr. Victor Medina has been recognized by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Southeast Region for accomplishing outstanding work in the process of transferring federally developed technology.
Medina and his team members — Scott Waisner, Charles Ellison, Jose Mattei-Sosa, Jacob Lalley, and Dr. Christopher Griggs — developed the PFAS Effluent Treatment System (PETS), a stand-alone, trailer-mounted mobile water-treatment system designed to treat water containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS. PETS is similar to the PFAS Water Treatment Research Reactor (PWTRR), which uses the same treatment technology but is designed for stationary applications.
“I am absolutely delighted about the award and proud of my project team,” Medina said. “We’re so excited about the technology; the PETS is up to 90 times less expensive over a five-year period than traditional cleanup efforts. For a particularly challenging overseas installation, costs were approximately $2.9 million annually. First-year costs with PETS are approximately $95,000, with follow-on operational costs at $15,000 per year.”
The team transferred the technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, successfully completing proof-of-concept testing of the technology at three U.S. military sites storing PFAS-containing aqueous film forming foam, which has been widely used to control petroleum fires since the 1970s.
“PFAS is an emerging chemical of concern, because the same properties that made it so attractive as a material in products such as firefighting foams and Teflon also make it a persistent pollutant in the environment,” Medina said.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS are persistent, they bioaccumulate in organisms, and they are toxic at very low levels.
Since the technology transfer effort was undertaken during COVID-19 restrictions, team members developed innovative approaches to test the project, training base personnel to take on the team’s roles in two different remote areas. The team created training materials, conducted training sessions and provided troubleshooting support via Microsoft Teams.
“Even in its testing phase, PETS/PWTRR has already made a positive impact on achieving the Department of Defense’s sustainability goals,” Medina said.
The team successfully treated three sites, resulting in water discharge free from PFAS. “We treated 150,000 gallons, or 95% of stored water containing PFAS at the Air Force’s Hurlburt Field in Florida,” Medina said. “In the Pacific, two storage tanks totaling 50,000 gallons at a Marine Corps installation were remediated, and about 156,000 gallons in a run-off collection pond at an Air Force base was treated during the technology testing phase.”
“This is a huge honor for the ERDC-EL and for the researchers,” said ERDC-EL Director Dr. Edmond Russo. “We expect that lower costs and portability mean the technology will play a critical role in remediating PFAS impacts and protecting the environment for current and future generations.”
This technology can be used to support future PFAS remediation efforts in the U.S. and throughout the world.
The FLC Southeast Regional Awards will be celebrated Sept. 21 - 23, 2021, at the Midwest and Southeast Regional Meeting, which will be held virtually.