Ohio announces PFAS-containing firefighting foam takeback program 

Battelle PFAS Annihilator Processing Unit. Photo Credit: Battelle Memorial Institute

Ohio fire departments, local governments, and government-owned airports are now able to turn in stockpiled Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) containing hazardous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to be eliminated through supercritical water oxidation, state officials announced. 

The new Aqueous Film Forming Foam Takeback Program partners with science and technology non-profit company Battelle to utilize its patented PFAS Annihilator technology, which effectively destroys AFFF and PFAS-contaminated wastewater to non-detectable levels, breaking the strong bonds of fluorine and carbon atoms, according to Battelle. 

Firefighting foam forms a thin film that deprives fire of oxygen, but poses significant risk of groundwater contamination. In 2022, Ohio prohibited the use of AFFF in firefighter training exercises, as the widely used fire suppressant has also been linked to higher cancer rates among firefighters.   

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State Fire Marshal’s Office have joined Battelle on the takeback project, which is funded by $3 million in settlement money that Ohio received as part of the state’s polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) enforcement case against Monsanto in 2018. 

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“Today marks a significant advancement in ensuring the safety of our communities and protecting our environment,” announced State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon, in a statement. “With Ohio EPA’s funding for the AFFF Takeback Program, fire departments across the state can now remove these compounds from their shelves with confidence, knowing they will be securely and effectively remediated.” 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that Battelle and its subcontractor, Revive Environmental Technology, will provide program management, technical expertise, and analytical laboratory support for the AFFF takeback program. 

“Until now, fire departments have had no way to safely dispose of this toxic foam,” announced Governor DeWine in a statement. “With this new program, we’ll now be able to completely destroy AFFF to prevent dangerous exposure to PFAS and avoid environmental contamination.” 

On its website, Battelle describes the PFAS Annihilator technology as being able to utilize supercritical oxidation processes that can “rapidly break down compounds that do not oxidize readily at standard temperatures and pressures, destroying chemicals that would otherwise persist for decades or centuries in the environment.” 

Other states, such as New Hampshire, have already formed agreements to utilize the technology as part of an AFFF takeback program.   

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