The Water Research Foundation (WRF) has awarded Black & Veatch a grant to investigate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in biosolids that pose a potential risk for the agricultural industry, food supply and ultimately, human health.
The research project, Understanding the Value Proposition for Thermal Processes to Mitigate PFAS in Biosolids, will address the presence of these “forever chemicals.” Utilities across the U.S. produce nutrient-rich biosolids as fertilizers in agriculture and for other beneficial uses. In California alone, over 480,000 metric tons of biosolids are used annually on farms. The presence of the PFAS chemicals in the biosolids, however, pose a potential risk for the agricultural industry and ultimately the food supply.
“PFAS chemicals are used everywhere from food packaging and nonstick pans to cosmetics,” said Dr. Patrick McNamara, Black & Veatch’s principal investigator for the study. “Many of these chemicals are toxic, potentially carcinogenic and don’t break down easily in water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). This research is an important step to further our understanding of how our treatment technologies can mitigate the impact of these forever chemicals in our communities.”
The research will determine whether PFAS are removed, transformed or destroyed through thermal biosolids processes that can be used at WRRFs. Black & Veatch is collaborating with California State University at Bakersfield and Eurofins Environment Testing (USA). The project builds on research conducted by the Black & Veatch Innovation Platform Team, which evaluated the impact of thermal processes to eliminate PFAS in biosolids.
“Water resource recovery facilities are integral to regional circular economies that include farms, industries and the food we consume,” said Dr. Sandeep Sathyamoorthy, Black & Veatch’s global practice leader for innovation and applied research. “Our team’s objective is to build a comprehensive life cycle assessment toolkit, which will help utilities address the challenges posed by PFAS in biosolids.”