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PFAS Annihilator could rid drinking water of 'forever chemicals' once and for all

Forever chemicals are forever gone with new PFAS technology.
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Posted at 8:24 PM, Sep 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-21 09:40:45-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The PFAS crisis has plagued West Michigan for years. According to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, 1.5 million residents have been impacted by the forever chemical that contaminated drinking water in thousands of sites.

However, a new partnership now says that they believe their PFAS Annihilator unit may be the solution to the crisis.

“There’s been a problem with PFAS. There’s been health issues. But, there’s not been hope,” said David Trueba, president and CEO of Revive Environmental. “There’s been temporary solutions where you dispose of it in ways that are not destroying the PFAS. Now, there’s hope.”

Trueba and Jim Rosendall of Heritage-Crystal Clean met with FOX 17 in early August and gave them a tour of the facility.

Trueba said Revive Environmental, created by Battelle in Ohio, teamed up with Heritage-Crystal Clean, which is based in the Grand Rapids area, to launch the PFAS Annihilator that destroys the chemicals.

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The 4Never solution breaks down the leachate during the 'annihilation' process.

Trueba said that currently, 6-11 large tankers a day bring in thousands of gallons of leachate from three local and private landfills. The leachate then goes through a multi-step process, taking it from the tanker to the 4Never Solution, created by Heritage Crystal Clean, which breaks down the chemicals. Then it ends in the Annihilator, which destroys it.

“This is the first of its kind facility. You’ve got PFAs coming in to be in a closed-loop system, destroyed in a systematic process [and a] repeatable format,” Trueba said. “We’re taking in 2.7 million gallons a month right now of landfill leachate.”

Trueba said that the Annihilator works by using temperature and pressure to annihilate the chemicals to where it’s no longer a gas or liquid. It’s both.

“Think of it this way: Carbon and fluorine bonds — the strongest bond in chemistry — are really tough,” Trueba said. “That’s why PFAS is called ‘forever chemicals.’ It lasts forever. It’s non-biodegradable and it’s bio-accumulative. So, when you ingest it your body, literally can't get rid of it.”

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals found in more than just drinking water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS have been found in a variety of household items, including cleaning products, cookware, raincoats, umbrellas, and makeup.

Trueba said that 95 percent of people in the world have PFAS in their bloodstream.

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The leachate that's brought in goes through a multi-step "annihilating" process

“The reason I’m standing here in front of a multi-million dollar facility destroying PFAS is because people actually cared about what’s in their water,” Trueba said. “They took action. They were educated. And because they didn’t like the results, because of that education, they actually asked their regulators and their government to take a stand.”

In April 2018, the State of Michigan began testing for PFAS and became one the first states to do so, they said.

At Revive, over the last four months of using the Annihilator, they’ve seen no or very low detection of PFAS materials in their results, Trueba said.

Jim Rosendall, who’s head of special projects at Heritage-Crystal Clear, said he believes the program has been successful because the state continues to be proactive in the fight against PFAS.

“Being a part of the solution is a really big deal for us,” Rosendall said. “We’re the first commercial operation in North America to bring this solution to market.”

Trueba said they’re also the first to treat landfill in an operation scale. Also, they’re going to be the first to destroy AFFF firefighting foam “at a scale that’s not a standard incineration process in North America.”

Trueba said their work is a paid service. Once the process is complete and they confirm that the PFAS in the leachate are below state action levels, then it’s sent to a local Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) facility, where it's processed into drinking water.

And, even though right now it’s a commercial operating unit, Trueba said they hope to one day make the PFAS Annihilator available in local communities.

“This is a story of firsts,” Trueba said. “We’re the first commercial operating unit for PFAS destruction in a closed-looped system. What does that mean? It comes in. It does not leave. We annihilate it.”

READ MORE: High levels of PFAS found in Kent County

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