URI researchers testing new method to remove & destroy harmful “forever chemicals”

PFAS are manmade chemicals that can contaminate soil & drinking water, and will not break down naturally on their own

By: Tim Studebaker

Facebook: @TStudebakerABC6

Twitter: @TStudebakerABC6

Email: tstudebaker@abc6.com

KINGSTON, R.I. (WLNE) – Researchers at URI are testing a potential solution to an ongoing problem: PFAS, manmade chemicals used in some industrial and household products, firefighting foam, and even food packaging that can contaminate soil and drinking water.  According to the EPA, PFAS can be harmful to your health.

Dr. Thomas Boving, an Environmental Hydrology Professor at University of Rhode Island says, “I’m researching ways to remove these contaminants from the soil and water to make the situation better, ideally to the degree that the water can be used again.”

According to Boving, once these so-called “forever” chemicals end up in soil and groundwater, they will not break down naturally.

Boving says, “Mother Nature doesn’t have a tool in its toolbox to break down these compounds.  It has to be done another way.”

He’s working with a Massachusetts company called EnChem Engineering to test a potential decontamination process.  The process involves drilling wells at contaminated sites and freeing the PFAS from the soil using a sugar solution.  Then, they pump out the contaminated water and use a photochemical reaction to destroy the PFAS in less than an hour per batch.

Boving says, “What comes out on the other end is the clean water that we’re hoping to achieve.”

If the process works in the field like it did in the lab, it could replace an older, slower, and more expensive decontamination process, which involves digging up contaminated soil and washing it in special machines.

Boving says, “It should be very fast, much faster than what would be happening naturally because that, we would wait forever.”

The next step for these researchers is testing the technology in the field.  They’ll be doing that that on Cape Cod.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2021

Categories: News, Rhode Island