Backed-up pipes, stinky yards: Climate change is wrecking septic tanks

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

As climate change intensifies, septic failures are emerging as a vexing issue for local governments. For decades, flushing a toilet and making wastewater disappear was a convenience that didn’t warrant a second thought. No longer. From Miami to Minnesota, septic systems are failing, posing threats to clean water, ecosystems and public health.

Measuring endocrine disruptors in wastewater

Read the full story from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique – INRS.

Treating pollutants, such as endocrine disruptors, is an effective way to protect the environment. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter the hormonal systems and the development of organisms that are exposed to them, even in small quantities. Scientists are working on an effluent analysis tool to predict their harmful effects.

Tarleton researchers work to remove microplastics from wastewater

Read the full story from Tarleton State University.

Tarleton State University researchers led by Dr. Rajani Srinivasan have demonstrated that combinations of food-grade plant extracts, including those from okra, aloe, cactus and psyllium, have the power to remove microplastics from wastewater.

Findings were presented at the March 20-24 virtual spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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

The national fight against COVID-19 isn’t ready to go to the sewers

Read the full story at MuckRock.

As COVID-19 testing sites close and experts warn that case numbers are capturing a small minority of infections, many public health experts are turning to a newer source that might tell us what’s going on with the virus: our poop.

In the past two years, scientists have developed systems that can detect COVID-19 in our wastewater. This is a great early warning system, since the virus can show up in people’s waste days before they begin to experience symptoms or are able to get tested. It’s also less biased than case data: Not everyone can find a COVID-19 test and not every positive result will get reported … but everybody poops.

As with so many other COVID-19 metrics, however, interpreting wastewater data is not as simple as it seems. Before COVID-19, this type of data hadn’t been used to track respiratory viruses. This means the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has little established infrastructure to build upon. The agency is attempting to standardize reporting from researchers across the country, many of whom have different water sampling methods. Plus, the state and local health officials who cite wastewater as a potential replacement for underreported case numbers aren’t used to interpreting data from the environment, which has unique caveats and requires a learning curve for those used to looking at numbers from hospitals and health clinics.

The Documenting COVID-19 project surveyed 19 state and local health agencies, as well as scientists who work on wastewater sampling, to learn about the challenges they’re facing. We found that many states are months away, if not longer, from being able to use wastewater data to guide public health decisions, even as the rise of an omicron subvariant, BA.2, looms. Meanwhile, the CDC’s highly shared wastewater surveillance dashboard is a work in progress, and is difficult to interpret for users who might hope to follow the trends in their areas.

Research finds more PFAS coming out of wastewater treatment plants than going in

Read the full story from WVPE.

New research from Western Michigan University indicates that wastewater treatment plants could have a negative effect on PFAS pollution.

Farewell, forever chemicals: Researchers aim to eliminate PFAS for good

Read the full story from Michigan Tech.

A new computational tool developed at Michigan Technological University assists in the urgent quest to eliminate the persistent chemicals known as PFAS from community water supplies.

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.

How to make algae fuel and feedstock less expensive

Read the full story in Popular Science

As the US tries to move toward a clean energy economy and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, it seems that biofuels are having their moment. These renewably sourced liquids could be a direct substitute of energy for petroleum-guzzling cars or industrial processes without necessarily needing to change the entire infrastructure of the power grid.

In particular, it seems the government is upping its focus on the green goo that could satisfy some of Americans’ energy needs: algae.

Earlier in February, the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced a new round of funding worth $19 million for projects that can increase the capabilities of working algal systems to capture carbon dioxide. The goals are two-fold: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to cultivate algae for biofuels and other bioproducts.

This announcement builds on previous years’ funding, including a round of grants totaling $8 million released in summer of 2021. Though these numbers pale in comparison to the Department of Energy’s total 2022 budget of $40.3 billion, algae bioenergy seems to be a growing interest—there’s even a new student competition to innovate with the water-based organisms.

Illinois EPA invests over $65.6 million in wastewater and drinking water projects in second quarter of FY22

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) has announced the issuance of more than $65.6 million in water infrastructure loans to local governments and sanitary districts for the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2022 (October – December). The Illinois EPA State Revolving Fund Program provides low-interest loans, which fund wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water projects. Three of the loan recipients qualified for a total of more than $3 million in principal forgiveness, providing additional benefits to those recipients. This is in addition to more than $5.3 million of funding recently announced for lead service line replacement projects issued by Illinois EPA in the second quarter.

“Communities throughout Illinois continue to face the challenges of aging wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. The Illinois EPA State Revolving Fund provides cost-saving loans to communities and water reclamation districts to meet the needs of their residents and customers.”

Director John J. Kim, Director, Illinois EPA

Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund includes two loan programs, the Water Pollution Control Loan Program (WPCLP) which funds both wastewater and stormwater projects, and the Public Water Supply Loan Program (PWSLP) for drinking water projects. The programs receive federal capitalization funding annually, which is combined with state matching funds, interest earnings, repayment money, and the sale of bonds, to form the source of financing for these infrastructure projects. The state matching funds for FY2020-2024 are being provided through Governor Pritzker’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan thus increasing the funding capacity of both loan programs. Projects funded in FY22 receive an interest rate of just 1.11% for both wastewater and drinking water loans.

A complete list of FY22 second quarter loan recipients and more information about
Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund
are available on the Illinois EPA website.