Primary Investigator: Matt Simcik
Co-investigator: William Arnold

Industry Partners: Geosyntec Consultants, St. Louis County, Minnesota

Problem: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are commonly used commercial chemical compounds that do not readily break down in the environment. Recent studies have identified high levels of PFAS in the environment, individual organisms, and even humans—to which negative health impacts have been attributed. These compounds are known to accumulate in and be transported by landfill leachate. This provides a direct pathway to public wastewater treatment facilities, which are currently not equipped to treat this contaminant. As a result, PFAS is quickly becoming a national water challenge, as it impairs more and more natural surface water, public water supplies, and aquifers.

SolutionLandfill leachate will be treated with positively charged cationic polymers before entering a wastewater treatment facility. These polymers have shown potential in breaking down PFAS. Using a protocol established by the  Environmental Protection Agency, the team will conduct lab-scale tests to establish the cationic polymers’ ability to degrade PFAS.

Impact: The use of cationic polymers to treat PFAS within landfill leachate, before the contaminant enters the water treatment facility, would offer a significant technological advancement in the mitigation of a growing water pollution challenge. It is anticipated that this solution would save water treatment facilities considerable costs.

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