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Grant fuels research for PFAS project

Project’s goal is to develop a technology that destroys PFAS chemicals in wastewater.

November 29, 2019
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The city of Grand Rapids received a $50,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to continue its work in addressing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in wastewater.

The city commission voted to accept the grant during a regular meeting late in November.

The grant provides funding to the PFAS research project underway with the Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department and Fraunhofer USA Center for Coatings and Diamond Technologies in partnership with Michigan State University. The project’s goal is to develop a technology that destroys PFAS chemicals in wastewater.

In March, the city commission approved the partnership with MSU-Fraunhofer, investing $300,000 over a three-year period.

“This grant will cover the costs of testing wastewater samples from MSU-Fraunhofer, which is roughly $1,400 each month,” said Nicole Pasch, Grand Rapids’ acting assistant environmental services manager. “We know that addressing PFAS is a long-term process. This project confirms our commitment that if the potential is there for an actual solution for destroying these chemicals, we will be at the forefront of finding it.”

MSU-Fraunhofer developed a method that uses diamond technology to break down the hazardous carbon-fluorine bonds in the PFAS compounds and convert them into carbon dioxide, fluoride and water.

PFAS is a large class of human-made, organic chemicals that have been manufactured for decades and used throughout the industrial, food and textile industries, including water-resistant products and nonstick coating on cookware.

PFAS chemicals are resistant to heat, water and oil, and can be harmful to the environment and living organisms because they do not naturally deteriorate.

The city’s environmental services department hopes to eventually use the MSU-Fraunhofer technology at its water resource recovery facility, where PFAS from industrial and landfill discharges enter the plant via the sewer system and are not treatable for removal under normal treatment plant processes.

“This project is an important step in helping us combat PFAS,” Pasch said. “Our department will continue to be proactive with this important environmental issue, and we are grateful for the support of EGLE.”

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