PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — After PFAS chemicals were found in the groundwater on the former Pease Air Force base in New Hampshire, state officials and health experts teamed up to find a solution.
One solution unveiled Tuesday, is a new water treatment facility recently added to the Portsmouth site. It not only rids the water of PFAS chemicals, but prevents them from leaving the site to avoid further contamination. Experts say the technology has the capacity to cycle through 700 gallons of water a minute.
"I would call it significant and also a milestone." John Henderson said. Henderson is the assistant secretary of the Air Force and one of many working to eliminate PFAS chemicals around the country.
These "forever chemicals" have been used in things like firefighting foam or non-stick containers for decades. New research has linked the man-made toxin to serious health concerns.
"It’s very persistent, so once it gets in the ground it stays in the ground," Henderson said. "If it gets in the groundwater it stays in the groundwater until we clean it up.
Which is exactly what this water filtration system aims to do. So how does it work? The facility is connected to six different wells in the area. Water is collected and pumped through a series of pipes. Once it hits the granular carbon vessels, the magic really happens.
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"What that does is remove any organics in the water, and coincidentally, PFAS or PFOA as well." Rob Singer said. Singer is with Wood, Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, one of the companies behind the technology.
The water is then carried through another series of pipes and mixed with other chemical clinging materials, like ion exchange resin. This process is done a couple times to ensure the chemicals are completely removed. After it has been cycled through, the water is pumped back to the wells ready for consumption.
"The idea is that the second vessel is really an insurance policy," Singer said. "So, when we see that we are getting PFAS out of the first vessel... we can see it’s still getting treated in the second."
While this system will only impact a small area, officials say it’s a big step in the right direction. With Pease being one of 190 other sites the Air Force is keeping tabs on, officials hope the effects sparks change not just in New Hampshire, but around the country."
"It’s more than just Air Force bases, it’s really a national problem," Henderson said. "It’s going to take a more comprehensive whole of government to get after this and get it out of our environment."