New Study Puts Price Tag on PFAS Removal from MN Water Systems
Thursday, June 8, 2023
As more research emerges about the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, government agencies are faced with the task of figuring out how to keep the public safe.
A new Minnesota study said removing the so-called "forever chemicals" from wastewater will be very expensive. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates it would cost $14 billion to $28 billion to remove PFAS from the water and biosolids leaving regional wastewater treatment facilities, over a 20-year period to implement the technology, along with operating expenses.
Scott Kyser, wastewater effluent engineer for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, led the research project and said trying to add the equipment would be a big adjustment.
"Those treatment systems are new, they're complicated, and they just take a lot of money to operate," Kyser pointed out.
The study added new types of PFAS are more difficult and up to 70% more expensive to remove and destroy, compared to older substances. Forever chemicals are found in a range of products and create serious health risks for consumers. They also can contaminate surface water, groundwater, drinking water, fish and other wildlife.
Sophie Greene, PFAS coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said given the magnitude of the cost, they hope the findings compel policymakers and manufacturers to focus on preventing the chemicals from reaching wastewater facilities in the first place.
"I think this is telling us source reduction is the most important thing right now," Greene asserted. "Installing these expensive and complicated treatment systems at all of our wastewater treatment plants is just probably not feasible."
She acknowledged it is still a major challenge in swapping out PFAS for less-harmful materials, since their use in manufacturing has been so widespread.
There has been pushback from some business groups when proposed regulations surface. Still, Greene noted there is hope in Minnesota, with the Legislature this year adopting bans on the chemicals for nonessential items.
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