Pioneering PFAS Treatment

Pioneering PFAS Treatment
city of westfield massachusetts, usa 
A western Massachusetts community has become a leader in drinking water innovation by taking the initiative on perfluorinated compounds, using bench-scale testing to determine the best approach to treatment.

Westfield is a city located in the Pioneer Valley of western Mass­a­chu­setts. From its roots as an agri­cul­tural community in the 1600s, the area grew to an industrial hub in the 1800s, serving as the manu­fac­tur­ing center of the horse and buggy whip making industry. Today, Westfield is home to over 41,000 people, and is notable for a new reason: it is pioneering a proactive approach to protecting its residents from perflu­o­ri­nated compounds in drinking water.

Per- and poly­flu­o­roalkyl substances (PFAS), including perflu­o­rooc­tanoic acid (PFOA) and perflu­o­rooc­tane sulfonate (PFOS), are industrial chemicals that were used for many years in materials like nonstick cookware and fire­fight­ing foam. While these compounds have not been manu­fac­tured for some time, they are so stable and durable that they remain in the environment and are considered “emerging cont­a­m­i­nants” in drinking water. In 2016, the U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Protection Agency (EPA) issued lifetime health advisories for PFAS, because studies have shown that increased exposure to high concen­tra­tions can be harmful.

Westfield ceased use of two of its wells where the city found PFOA and PFOS at concen­tra­tions exceeding the health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. While PFAS have not been formally regulated by federal or state authorities, Westfield decided the concern required a solution. The city turned to CDM Smith's water team, who have worked with Westfield on several sewer and water projects over the past 15 years.  Experts in envi­ron­men­tal remediation and drinking water engineering from CDM Smith helped Westfield bring a new water treatment facility online. The new Owen District Road Water Treatment Plant will ensure safe and reliable water supplies from wells affected by PFOS and PFOA. 
 

To determine the best approach for Westfield’s water, Charles Schaefer, PhD, discipline leader for envi­ron­men­tal R&D and treata­bil­ity studies, led a bench-scale testing analysis for PFOS/PFOA treatment. Dr. Schaefer has researched and assessed perflu­o­ri­nated compounds for years, including working closely with EPA. “When an emerging contaminant becomes a concern, there can be a rush to install a treatment technology without properly determining its effec­tive­ness. Careful assessment is the best approach to any PFOS or PFOA concern,” he says. “Bench-scale testing allows us to understand much more about a given situation and how best to treat it. For a relatively small cost you can achieve much more certainty, and the cost is pennies on the dollar by comparison to jumping straight into instal­la­tion of a full-scale system.”

The bench-scale testing helped Westfield establish granular activated carbon (GAC) as an effective solution for removing the compounds of concern from the two wells. Bench-scale testing aided in GAC media selection for the facility by comparing alter­na­tives and helped determine compat­i­bil­ity with the groundwater matrix. Based on the results of the bench-scale testing, CDM Smith designed the new Owen District Road water treatment facility, a 4 million gallon per day (mgd) groundwater treatment plant containing the GAC treatment system, a sodium hypochlo­rite storage and feed system, a phosphate storage and feed system, and an office area with sampling provisions. CDM Smith also provided vigilant construc­tion oversight and operational assistance to the city as the plant went on-line in August 2020. 

Many water utilities are concerned about these compounds, but Westfield has taken action and is leading the way.
Al leblanc, Discipline Leader –Water Treatment

 

Charles Schaefer Charles Schaefer
Bench-scale testing allows us to understand much more about a given situation and how best to treat it.

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