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Incineration at a standstill, while US EPA is looking for a solution to safely destroy PFAS

Incineration at a Standstill, While US EPA Looks for Solution to Safely Destroy PFAS

Incineration was thought to be one of the solutions for the destruction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). However, an article published on May 4, 2020, in VTDigger by Elizabeth Gribkoff, shed light on some recent findings. A study group from Bennington College in Vermont conducted a study for PFAS at a site in Cohoes, New York. The group tested soils and surface water collected around the Norlite Corporation’s (Norlite’s) plant and found traces of PFAS compounds in the samples. The Norlite facility had previously accepted aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) for incineration. The laboratory results for the samples can be found on the Bennington College website. Ultimately, the findings, a summary of which are posted on the website, led to the cancellation of contracts with the United States Department of Defense (US DoD) and the drafting of legislation by the state of New York to stop the incineration of PFAS, which is awaiting signature of the Governor.

Recently, due to environmental justice issues and public outcry, the Union County Recovery Facility operated by Covanta in Rahway, New Jersey, backed out of an agreement with the State of New Jersey and US EPA to conduct research on the incineration of PFAS. E.A. Crunden’s August 26,2020 article on reported that instead of burning PFAS, the initial plan for the study was to burn two non-toxic compounds to see if the incineration would break those down. The surrogate compounds carbon tetrafluoride (CF4) and hexafluoroethane (C2F6) were to be used instead of actual PFAS compounds.

During the 2020 National Environmental Methods Conference (NEMC), US EPA provided an update noting that it was studying conditions for the safe incineration of PFAS.

Gary Yakub


David Thal

David Thal, CQA, CEAC, CFS

Principal Chemist