Navigating the Complexities of PFAS

Authors: Zhiyong Xia, Steve Lohman, Holly Churman, Jay Surti
Engineers finding PFAS solutions

At a glance

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have emerged as significant environmental concerns due to their ubiquity and toxicity. On April 10, 2024, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) promulgated the Final PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (Rule) to regulate six PFAS compounds: PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS, PFOA, PFNA and GenX. Additional information about the Rule can be found at (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) | US EPA). To become more familiar with industry implications read our recent insights piece, New PFAS rules are going to have major implications for the industry and public sector

We are ready to help you comply with this new Rule and others. GHD has been assisting water utilities across the US for several years to prepare in anticipation of the new Rule. We are successfully delivering planning, treatability, design, and construction PFAS projects across the US. Our team partners with you to conduct treatment system analysis, sampling and PFAS testing, data analysis (including forensics), treatment option (both PFAS capture and PFAS destruction) recommendations and development of PFAS minimization plan. 

Following the promulgation of the final PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (Rule) by the USEPA on April 10, 2024, GHD’s professionals draw upon their extensive experience in planning, treatability, design, and construction of PFAS projects to assist water utilities in navigating and complying with this regulation.

Understanding of the new Rule

We are familiar with the new Rule and have engaged with state and federal-level regulators to understand the evolving landscape of PFAS regulations and help others seek compliance and manage risk. We help you understand the latest guidelines and legal requirements, offering clarity amidst the complexities of state and federal mandates. There are nuances in these PFAS regulations, and we are ready to offer in-depth technical and compliance assistance and select the best solution to tackle PFAS challenges, enabling you to implement solutions by 2029, as required by the new Rule.

Assessing the efficiency and efficacy of the existing treatment process 

There are processes and technologies in place to treat other contaminants. However, the efficacy of the existing technologies to treat PFAS remains largely unknown. Further, whether existing processes will lead to reduced or increased concentration in the treated water remains unknown largely due to the presence of metastable PFAS precursors. Utilities need to understand the fate, transport and transformation of these precursors to achieve compliance. Our approach is to partner with utilities to perform a whole system survey and identify critical technology gaps by analyzing existing processes, historical data and water source information, and help make well informed decisions. GHD’s Innovative Technology Laboratory is fully equipped with analytical capabilities to conduct treatability studies and determine promising and cost-effective treatment solutions. Our laboratory has been effectively utilized on several PFAS projects completed by our team.

Reliable and cost-effective treatment 

There are many PFAS treatment technologies on the market. In general, the technologies can be grouped into the following two categories: 

  1. PFAS capture using sorbent media, high-pressure membranes, or phase separation techniques.
  2. PFAS destruction using catalytical means such as supercritical water oxidation, thermal pyrolysis/gasification and electrochemical oxidation.  

GHD has significant expertise with PFAS capture and destruction technologies. These technologies have different maturities and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis to confirm their fitness at a facility. Many environmental factors and water quality parameters impact the efficacy of PFAS management including the presence of co-contaminants, pH, total organic carbon (TOC), presence of inorganic ions to name a few. Our in-depth PFAS capability can help distil the growing field of technologies, help make well informed decisions and select the best technologies to achieve compliance in a cost-effective manner. 

Secure funding for PFAS mitigation

To meet the Rule, there are funding opportunities at both the state and federal levels that can be secured to meet project capital needs. For example, the USEPA is making $9 billion available to address PFAS and emerging contaminants issues in water systems (Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes First-Ever National Drinking Water Standard to Protect 100M People from PFAS Pollution | US EPA). We believe the capital demand for PFAS projects across the US will likely exceed funding available through various state and federal agencies. Our grant writing professionals stand ready to help you organize and develop the best course of action and make grant and loan applications to secure funding.

The GHD Difference 

Engineers in Technology Research Center
Our team has the depth and breadth of knowledge and proven experience to cost effectively meet your needs. We are your partner to help achieve compliance, help you execute projects from planning through construction expeditiously. Together, we look forward to protecting public health and building lasting community benefit.