Pennell awarded $1.36M for in situ remediation of PFAS-impacted groundwater

Brown University School of Engineering Professor Kurt Pennell has been awarded a new grant from the Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) worth just over $1.36 million for the “In Situ Sequestration of PFAS-Impacted Groundwater Using Stabilized Ion Exchange Resin.” Pennell will be the principal investigator, and will work with subcontractor Jacobs Engineering to implement the field test.

In situ remediation of groundwater impacted with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is particularly challenging due to their persistence in the environment and the need to achieve extremely low drinking water standards (parts per trillion) to protect human health. As part of a previous Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) project, the team developed a stable suspension of ion exchange resin (S-IXR) that can be directly injected into an aquifer to create an adsorptive barrier that removes PFAS from groundwater.

The objective of this project is to demonstrate the ability of the permeable adsorptive barrier to reduce PFAS concentrations in groundwater at a Department of Defense facility that was previously contaminated with PFAS. The contamination resulted from the use of fire-fighting foam, commonly referred to as aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), in both training exercises and fire suppression.   

At Brown, laboratory-scale soil column and aquifer cell studies will be conducted to verify PFAS removal using soil and groundwater collected from the field site. Based on these results, production of the ion exchange resin will be scaled-up and injected at the field into wells located perpendicular to the flow of contaminated groundwater.  Monitoring wells located down-gradient from the treatment zone will be sampled over time to evaluate performance of the resin barrier. The project team anticipates that the injectable resin will provide lower cost per mass of PFAS adsorbed than activated carbon, and will exhibit improved performance for shorter chain length PFAS.