The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) Board of Directors has identified a high priority research topic in the area of managing per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and has issued a request for pre-proposals (RFP) on the topic to support the long-term needs and strategic direction of the solid waste industry.
PFAS are a group of compounds that are man-made and are commonly used in industrial processes and consumer products such as food packaging, fire-fighting foams, metal plating, outdoor gear, popcorn bags, food wrappers, facial moisturizers, mattresses, carpeting, and cookware. Despite the widespread use of PFAS in everyday products, there are still significant knowledge gaps associated with the management of these compounds. Although consumer and industrial products have been identified as containing PFAS, there have been limited studies that focus on the inventory of the specific types of products that contain PFAS which ultimately end up as waste materials, discharged to wastewater treatment plants, or in other potential sinks. As regulations are being developed there needs to be sound science to address the many facets related to the management of PFAS-associated wastes.
For the purposes of this RFP, PFAS can include their associated precursors, transformation products, and byproducts. At a minimum, the focus should be on the most commonly monitored compounds that have standards or guidance values in place or being developed. Examples include, but are not limited to: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), per- and poly-fluoropolyethers (PFPE), perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), per- and poly-fluorinated carboxylic acids, and GenX.
The management of PFAS-associated wastes can be through conventional pathways such as landfilling, recycling, composting, thermal conversion (i.e., incineration), and anaerobic digestion. Within these management pathways, a focus should include, where applicable, liquid (e.g., leachate and gas condensate) and gaseous (e.g., landfill gas) emissions. Groundwater quality associated with these management pathways are also applicable within this RFP. Other compounds of emerging concern (CEC) will not be considered (e.g., pharmaceuticals, hormones, and endocrine disruptors). Pre-proposals related to other CEC should be submitted as part of the general RFP.
Research Focus Areas
- Identification of Sources and Sinks of PFAS
- identification and estimation of the quantity of PFAS in products and/or waste materials that makeup significant sources in the waste streams to landfill (e.g., consumer products, manufacturing residues, wastewater treatment sludge, industrial sludge, paper production and recycling sludges, and contaminated soils/sediments)
- inventory of PFAS detected in liquid (e.g., leachate and gas condensate) and gaseous emissions (e.g., landfill and anaerobic digester gas) and their variability across the solid waste industry
- management practices for reducing PFAS in landfill leachate
- estimating the significance of landfill emissions relative to other significant PFAS sources
- Development of Analytical Techniques to Detect and Quantify PFAS
- rapid field tests or enhanced laboratory methods to detect (screen) and quantify PFAS (existing technique are time-consuming and complex) in leachate and landfill gas
- applicability of existing leaching methods to adequately simulate the mobility of PFAS from associated consumer/industrial products within landfills
- Fate and Transport in Solid Waste Management Environments
- conditions that impact the mobility of PFAS from consumer/industrial products to liquid and gaseous phases (e.g., pH, pressure, temperature, age of waste)
- stabilization methods to minimize the transport of PFAS compounds to leachate
- on-site approaches to remove PFAS from liquid and gaseous emissions (approaches should also include the management of reject streams, where applicable)
- treatability of leachate-containing PFAS at wastewater treatment plants (including scalability, costs, and residual management considerations)
- Life-Cycle and Economic Assessment
- cost implications of PFAS management (solids, liquids, and air)
- demonstration of preferred management pathways that are based on reducing potential environmental burdens