Interior unveils guidance for getting coal mine cleanup money

Read the full story at E&E News.

The Biden administration has unveiled guidance for states and some Indigenous communities seeking to tap $725 million in grant funding to clean up abandoned coal mine sites.

The Interior Department released a draft outline today guiding states and communities that are part of the Navajo Nation on how they can apply for some of the first $725 million of $11.3 billion in funding made available over 15 years from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year. The funding can be used for cleaning up old coal mining sites left behind by operators without being reclaimed.

Cleaning up lakes and oceans

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

With a sponge that looks like one you might find in your kitchen, Northwestern University researchers have discovered how to effectively clean up oil, microplastics and phosphate pollution.

This sponge could help clean up oil spills without harming marine life and prevent algae blooms from forming when phosphate builds up to dangerous levels. To recover and reuse dwindling natural resources — like oil and phosphate — the sponge can simply be wrung out.

Northwestern engineer Vinayak Dravid, who developed the new tool, said the novel technology can accommodate multiple functions, much like a Swiss Army knife. The sponge absorbs 99% of phosphate ions it encounters and 30 times its weight in oil.

How a suburb of San Francisco used cottage cheese to un-poison poisoned land

Read the full story at Slate.

In 2004, Emeryville, an industrial suburb of San Francisco, sent an environmental remediation crew to inject 15,000 gallons of cottage cheese into groundwater below an abandoned factory. The factory manufactured car bumpers from 1951 to 1967, and the hexavalent chromium it left behind had since traveled into the groundwater. Hexavalent chromium gives humans cancer, trivalent chromium doesn’t, and cottage cheese converts the former to the latter.

Emeryville’s city manager of several decades tells me the cottage cheese story with obvious delight. I’m asking how Emeryville went from an industrial wasteland in 1975 to the tidy business suburb it is today. His answer is that cleaning up a century’s worth of toxic waste is not straightforward, and that the process of environmental remediation can be strange and labyrinthine. So strange that in certain moments and from certain angles, like a team spraying cottage cheese into the ground in 2004, the science looks like it’s descending into witchcraft.

EPA researchers exploring innovative treatment for lead in soil

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

While lead exposure has decreased significantly over the past few decades, lead pollution lingering in soil still poses health risks for many urban communities. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous to children, leading to severe intellectual disabilities along with other lifetime health impacts. EPA researchers are working to reduce childhood lead exposure by exploring new ways to clean up lead in contaminated sites. 

EPA researchers and partners are working on methods to turn toxic lead into less harmful forms through soil additives. Successful soil additives, or amendments, would interact with lead contamination and make it insoluble if ingested. Not all soil additives work for every type of soil or site, so researchers and contaminated site managers are exploring new options for reducing health risks.

Battelle demonstrates unit that destroys PFAS in wastewater

Battelle Sr. Research Technician, Mark Reyes, installs PFAS Annihilator™ on Feb 21, 2022. Photo credit: Battelle

Battelle launched a weeklong pilot demonstration in early March of its first-to-market total solution for PFAS removal and destruction at a wastewater treatment facility operated by Heritage-Crystal Clean in western Michigan. The Battelle PFAS Annihilator™ Mobile Unit, a closed-loop, on-site destruction solution powered by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO), was used to safely and completely destroy per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in contaminated water.

Originally designed as an armor coating in the 1940s, PFAS—widely known as “forever chemicals”—have been adapted for use in a wide array of consumer and industrial products such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant textiles, paint, metal plating, food packaging, and firefighting foams. These products that contain PFAS chemicals seep into the environment including our soil, water, and food supply.

“The same properties that make PFAS so useful also make them very difficult to remove from the environment and our bodies, as they resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water and are temperature resistant and reduce friction,” said Amy Dindal, Battelle PFAS Program Manager. “There are more than 5,000 different versions of PFAS, making every contamination different. This new technology will do incredible things for addressing PFAS water contamination.”

In 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified more than 120,000 U.S. locations where people may be exposed to PFAS.

“PFAS disposal is a challenge for many of our customers,” said Brian Recatto, President and CEO of Heritage-Crystal Clean. “When I first read about Battelle’s PFAS Annihilator, I immediately connected with Battelle to discuss a pilot deployment at one of our facilities. PFAS contamination is an incredibly complex, multi-generational problem that needs to be addressed for the health and safety of our communities.”

As federal and state agencies and the scientific community continue to grapple with critical questions about PFAS, Battelle took the lead in developing credible approaches to identifying PFAS chemicals and predicting where they will go and where they came from and how to destroy them completely. Other technologies for treating PFAS-contaminated water only provide temporary PFAS decontamination, require incineration or landfilling for final deposition of PFAS and generate secondary waste. Battelle’s PFAS Annihilator™ Mobile Unit is an on-site destruction solution that has demonstrated destruction at the lowest levels of detection, which mitigates concerns with meeting future regulatory limits that are currently unknown.

To break down these complex chemicals, the PFAS Annihilator™ pumps draw the contaminated wastewater into the system where it is mixed with hydrogen peroxide, isopropanol as a co-fuel and sodium hydroxide as a neutralizing agent. After passing through a heat exchanger, a furnace removes the salts. Then the water goes into the reactor at a designed temperature and pressure to break the carbon-fluorine bond. The resulting output is carbon dioxide and hydrofluoric acid which is neutralized with sodium hydroxide that turns it into inert salts. This solution eliminates any harmful byproducts. In trials of more than 30 PFAS-contaminated sample types, it consistently demonstrates more than 99.99% destruction of total PFAS.

Diagram of PFAS Annihilator™ Image credit: Battelle

“In this pilot we saw the Battelle PFAS Annihilator™ demonstrate the ability to reduce total PFAS in landfill leachate to single digit concentrations with no adverse byproducts in the treated water,” said Dindal. “We’ve successfully demonstrated this technology can be brought to a facility that processes waste materials, set-up in a few hours, and destroy PFAS chemicals in the presence of other co-contaminants. We are invigorated in our intent to bring this game-changing technology to scale and expand it to meet the growing need around the country.”

In December 2021, Dindal appeared before the U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Environment and the Subcommittee on Research and Technology to give testimony on Battelle’s extensive research and development of solutions for addressing PFAS problems in the U.S.

The next iteration of the PFAS Annihilator™ Mobile Unit—currently under construction—will have an increased capacity for wastewater intake and treatment, as well as automate the process so units can operate without manual intervention, bringing it to scale to clean industrial size containers of wastewater.

Visit Battelle’s website to learn more about the Battelle PFAS Annihilator™ Mobile Unit and view and download additional media assets from the demo, including b-roll, photos, a fact sheet and more.

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit www.battelle.org.

About Heritage-Crystal Clean, Inc.

Heritage-Crystal Clean, Inc. provides parts cleaning, used oil re-refining, and hazardous and non-hazardous waste services primarily to small and mid-sized manufacturers and other industrial businesses as well as customers in the vehicle maintenance sector. Our service programs include parts cleaning, containerized waste management, used oil collection and re-refining, wastewater vacuum, waste antifreeze collection, recycling and product sales, and field services. Heritage-Crystal Clean, Inc. is headquartered in Elgin, Illinois, and operates through 91 branches serving approximately 95,000 customer locations.

Source: Battelle

Brownfields 2022

Aug 16-19, 2022, Oklahoma City
For more information and to register

Brownfields 2022 features over 120 panels, roundtables, and topic talks where attendees can learn directly from experts in the field and interact with federal, state, and local decision-makers. In these sessions, speakers will discuss new practices, share success stories, and stimulate new ideas.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included an unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in EPA’s Brownfields program over the next two years. Proposals for these grants are due in November 2022 and guidelines will be released in September 2022. Hear from EPA officials about how you can access these grants and maximize your economic, environmental, and social performance. This funding will transform communities into sustainable and environmentally just places, enhance climate resiliency, and more.

After 30 years of cleanup, Waukegan Harbor will soon be off EPA’s ‘concern’ list

Read the full story in the Daily Herald.

More than $150 million in federal funding have been spent since 1992 to remove harmful chemicals from Waukegan Harbor, and now officials say the harbor finally is poised to be taken off the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Areas of Concern list.

EPA officials update Bridgeton leaders, activists on cleanup delays, newly found radioactivity

Read the full story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Residents and officials emerged frustrated and concerned Wednesday after hearing details about newly discovered areas of contamination in West Lake Landfill and further delays to clean up the Superfund site that contains World War II-era nuclear waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency met with Bridgeton’s mayor, local activists and staff for area congressional representatives. The meeting let EPA officials share findings about additional areas where waste has been found, discuss ongoing testing for radioactivity and also to answer questions about the site’s long-awaited cleanup.

Cooking up a way to remove microplastics from wastewater — with okra, aloe

Read the full story from the American Chemical Society.

In many cuisines, okra serves as a master thickener of stews and soups. The goo from that fruit and other plants, such as aloe, cactus and psyllium, can also clean water and wastewater of some types of solid pollutants, as well as some that are dissolved. Now, researchers have demonstrated that combinations of these food-grade plant extracts can remove microplastics from wastewater.

The researchers will present their results today at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Spring 2022 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person March 20-24, with on-demand access available March 21-April 8. The meeting features more than 12,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

Your standard environmental site assessment may still be skipping over PFAS

Read the full story at JD Supra.

With all the attention on PFAS over the past few years, you might assume that your standard Environmental Site Assessment would assess the possibility that the property you’re buying has been impacted by PFAS, the “forever chemicals” that are on their way to being regulated by the Federal Government in parts per trillion (and are already regulated in such minute concentrations in many states).

But, as Inside EPA reports, because PFAS are not yet “hazardous substances” according to Federal law, the current ASTM standard for Environmental Site Assessments doesn’t cover them.

That means you need to make sure your site assessment professional adds PFAS to its scope of work.