What are PFAS?Otherwise known as ‘forever chemicals’, PFAS are a class of highly toxic and ubiquitous substances previously resistant to any form of degradation.
They can be found in everyday consumer goods like carpets, chairs, and clothing, eventually ending up in landfill, in fact approximately 50 per cent of PFAS can be traced back to landfill. These toxic and carcinogenic substances have severe health implications, such as various types of cancer and developmental delays in children.
Contaminated drinking water
After decades of PFAS chemicals being released from industrial sources, these harmful substances have infiltrated rainwater, groundwater, rivers, and even contaminated drinking water.
Until now, PFAS destruction technologies have been relegated to the laboratory, or to batched processing. Yet most wastewater treatment processes need a continual-flow solution and a batch process would interrupt facility operations.
US start-up Aclarity believes its full scale reactors can continuously destroy PFAS at a rate that matches the customer's purification train.
The Aclarity story
CEO and co-founder Julie Bliss Mullen says: “During my time pursuing a PhD, I managed to create a process capable of destroying various types of contaminants, including PFAS, in water. This breakthrough led to the formation of Aclarity in 2017.
“We are focused on destroying PFAS in landfills since rainwater can cause leaching, reintroducing these harmful chemicals into the groundwater. Our goal is to permanently eliminate PFAS using electrochemistry.”
How does Aclarity’s system work?
When Aclarity carries out PFAS destruction at a customer's site, it transports pilot trailers to the landfill. Contaminated water containing PFAS flows through a reactor where it mineralises these substances. Through its process, it breaks down each component of the PFAS molecule into non-hazardous compounds.
“What sets us apart are our fully skidded systems, which encompass reactors, pumps, power supplies, valves, and automation. This level of automation is unique in the industry, as we can efficiently operate on-site and destroy PFAS in a single pass for our customers,” the CEO adds.
The Xylem pilot
Third party lab results using standard ASTM method D7979 confirmed Aclarity destroyed PFAS compounds in landfill leachate continuously at a centralised waste treatment facility at levels of greater than 1,000 ng/L to below 10 ng/L. The equipment operated continuously for four weeks using less than 100 Watt-hr/gallon.
The company says these results offer a pathway forward to ridding the world of dangerous, cancer-causing forever chemicals.
"Existing methods for managing PFAS in landfill leachate merely transfer the chemicals within our environment," adds Mullen. "By proving scalability and leading unit economics, our customers now have a feasible solution to destroy PFAS forever, reducing environmental impact, liability, costs and operations while increasing capacity and public health."
After a recent fundraise of over $3 million, Aclarity is planning several permanent installations in 2023 and is working to evaluate complementary concentration technology providers to expand into verticals such as drinking water and groundwater remediation.
“At Aclarity, we share a unified vision of permanently eradicating PFAS. We envision a world where everyone can access clean, uncontaminated water, free from the grasp of PFAS. Through our relentless efforts, innovative technology, and strong partnerships, we are determined to make this vision a reality,” Mullen concludes.