To better understand PFAS issues and develop solutions to the challenges it presents, Airservices has significantly invested in research and development with industry and university groups. This R&D program includes initiatives aimed at gaining a better understanding of the behaviour of PFAS in the environment, supporting initiatives to establish screening criteria for ecological, human health and waste management and developing treatments to remove PFAS from impacted materials.
Initially, Airservices R&D initiatives involved working with commercial laboratories in Australia to improve existing PFAS analysis, ensure consistent results and reports, and expand both the range of PFAS that were tested and the levels down to which it can be detected. More recently, the focus has been on waste management strategies and trialling technologies to determine their effectiveness. This has included assessment of immobilisation and filtration approaches, as well as destruction technologies.
The first trials of filtration and immobilisation technologies developed to manage other contaminants such as hydrocarbons, including well-known approaches such as the use of activated carbon, showed limited success when applied to PFAS. However, recent trials using purpose-designed products such as MyCelx, MatCARE and RemBind have been positive. Field trials are underway to assess selected technologies to deal with waste water. Airservices is involved in a broad range of trials with various industry partners to test technologies to remove PFAS from soil and water.
Airservices has been working with the University of Queensland since 2012 to better understand PFAS issues. This has included fate and transport studies, and investigations into the effectiveness of immobilisation approaches and their likely longevity in the “real world” when subjected to natural degradation processes. In partnership with Brisbane Airport and New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Airservices and the University of Queensland are currently collaborating in an Australian Research Council-funded project to investigate the behaviour of fluorinated surfactants and hydrocarbons in coastal airport environments. Additionally, The University of Queensland and Airservices are developing another proposal, with industry partners, to further research how PFAS binds to soil in order to better assess the effectiveness of removal approaches such as soil washing as well as the analytical techniques for detecting PFAS. Meanwhile, Airservices is developing a research proposal to investigate the microbial degradation of PFAS with Flinders University, Adelaide Airport and the South Australian EPA.
Airservices has contributed to, and participated in, the ongoing development of Australian human health and ecological screening levels for PFAS since 2010. This has included the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination and Remediation of the Environment’s efforts to develop such criteria for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) as well as similar undertakings by Commonwealth and State government departments to establish consistent management and investigation approaches. An example of these is the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan being developed by State EPAs in collaboration with Commonwealth departments.
PFAS are persistent in the environment and there are currently no practical PFAS remediation technologies available. Airservices continues to work closely with government and industry to develop solutions for our affected sites.