Friday, March 8, 2024

Focus on PFAS Part 5

 In the face of looming regulations and growing liability risks, companies are seeking help in managing waste containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals.” Dozens of start-ups are hoping to assist by supplying new technologies capable of destroying the carbon-fluorine bond. Once thought to be impossible to degrade, PFAS are proving to be no match for powerful techniques like electrochemical oxidation and supercritical water oxidation. Companies are also demonstrating that emerging technologies for PFAS destruction, like those that rely on the subcritical process hydrothermal alkaline treatment, plasma, ultraviolet light combined with photocatalysts, and sonolysis can break apart PFAS. When combined with technologies that concentrate PFAS on the front end, destruction technologies could provide a cost-effective way to eliminate PFAS in the environment and stop them from ending up in drinking water. 

Scientists once wrongly assumed that the carbon-fluorine bond was almost impossible to break. And that meant there was no practical way to completely destroy per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS contamination by the numbers


Number of US military sites that the Department of Defense is evaluating for potential contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)


Number of open landfills in the US generating leachate containing PFAS

Nearly 12,000

Number of closed landfills in the US generating leachate containing PFAS


Number of public water systems that will have to comply with US Environmental Protection Agency limits for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) proposed last year

4 parts per trillion

Limit proposed by the EPA for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water

$10.3 billion

Amount to be paid by 3M under a proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed by public water utilities over PFOA and PFOS contamination.

“They were truly thought to be ‘forever chemicals,’ ” says Julie Bliss Mullen, who began investigating technologies for removing PFAS from drinking water as an undergraduate in 2010. At the time, “destruction was not really on the table,” she recalls.

But Mullen was obsessed with breaking the carbon-fluorine bond. PFAS can be removed from water, but they just get transferred to another medium and eventually make their way back into the environment, she says. To stop that cycle, you have to destroy the molecules by breaking the “unbreakable” bond.

Around 2014, as a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mullen got her hands on some electrodes and, as she puts it, “started playing around with electrochemical oxidation in the lab.” The process creates hydroxyl radicals and, unlike other advanced oxidation techniques, facilitates the direct transfer of electrons. “Those electrons will almost immediately break the carbon-fluorine bond if we’re able to get PFAS onto the anode surface,” she says.

Mullen won’t say how she attracts PFAS to the anode surface. But in 2017, she and the university filed for a patent and spun out a company, Aclarity, to commercialize the technology. Mullen never did finish her PhD. Today, as cofounder and CEO of the Massachusetts-based firm, she’s seeing big interest in the technology from landfill operators and wastewater treatment plants.

Aclarity is not the only company vying for a piece of the PFAS destruction market. Dozens of start-ups are working on technologies for destroying the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and adverse effects on the liver and immune system. Some companies are already operating at full scale; others are not far behind. And it turns out that electrochemical oxidation is just one of many ways to break the carbon​-fluorine bond.

Companies are developing an array of approaches, including supercritical water oxidation, hydrothermal alkaline treatment, plasma destruction, ultraviolet light combined with photocatalysts, and sonolysis. They all claim to break down most PFAS into less harmful chemicals, such as carbon dioxide, fluoride ions, and water. But complete destruction of all PFAS, including short-chain PFAS and precursors, is a stretch for some techniques.

Many of these start-ups are partnering with companies specializing in technologies that remove PFAS from contaminated water and concentrate it. The PFAS destruction start-ups come in at the end and destroy the concentrated PFAS.

It’s early days for PFAS destruction and too soon to tell which technologies will succeed in the marketplace. But entrepreneurs who started these companies see the possibility of permanently ridding drinking water of the once-invincible “forever chemicals.”


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

 Focus on PFAS Part 1

Okay, anyone who attends Lunz Group programs, reads the newspaper or listens to the news knows that dangerous PFAS chemicals are everywhere, forever. It’s a daunting issue! We include this Focus on PFAS in our newsletter to help us explore this topic, to understand immediate threats to our health and to identify solutions for our safety from these toxins. We’ll toss out a topic for your consideration and encourage you to engage in the dialogue and submit your own contributions. Here goes…
Drinking Water: Yes, PFAS and related chemicals are in drinking water across the country. Nina Fair spoke with Becky Thames, Lab Director at Charleston Water System. Becky was forthcoming about CWS information regarding PFAS. CWS has been voluntarily publishing an Unregulated Compounds Report since 2017, as conditions (such as Covid) and technology allow. ( EPA has proposed Minimum Reporting Level (MRL) of 4 parts per trillion for drinking water. Once the MRLs are adopted, much work will still need to be done at state and local levels to bring about those results. It may be 2030 before consumers actually experience safer levels of PFAS in drinking water. Meanwhile, it may be worth considering installation of a home water filtration system. According to Duke University research, the least effective PFAS filters are activated charcoal and whole house systems. The most effective systems are dual-cartridge under-sink and reverse osmosis systems. Do some research – we’d love to hear what you discover!
Here's a link to the Mount Pleasant Waterworks water quality report. Note on page 7 a view of some of the chemical compounds included as PFAS 
Here's a link to a PDF summary document


Focus on PFAS Part 3

Now we have some idea of PFAS exposure in our local water sources. And we’ve gathered a little information about filtration systems to help screen PFAS contamination until protective regulations are enacted.  So, let’s look into the EPA proposal for regulating PFAS.

Data Collection: 

Data collection by EPA is required under the Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5). All public water systems serving communities of 3,300 or more people must monitor for specific contaminants in their water. UCMR 5 listed the more than two dozen PFAS that these public water systems must monitor, including PFOA and PFOS.

Results of the monitoring data will be released over three years, with the first round of data issued in July 2023. Data is expected to show thousands of new locations across the U.S. confirmed to have PFAS in their water, affecting millions more Americans than previously known. This may support the estimate published by EWG scientists in 2020 that over 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water. 

 EWG’s PFAS map shows that there are more than 2,800 communities known to be plagued by these forever chemicals – but EPA’s upcoming data release is expected to indicate that the numbers are actually much higher.

Proposed EPA Regulations: The Biden EPA is taking the first concrete steps ever to tackle PFAS pollution. In March, it proposed bold new limits known as maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) that restrict the amount of six individual PFAS that can be in drinking water: PFOA, PFOS, GenX, PFBS, PFNA and PFHxS. If finalized, this would be the first new MCL for drinking water contaminants by EPA in more than two decades.  In addition to weighing health harms, these limits consider water treatment costs and feasibility. The proposed MCLs are 4 parts per trillion for PFOA and the same for PFOS. For the other four PFAS chemicals, the EPA is proposing a “hazard index” to address cumulative risks from mixtures of chemicals. While these are the first federal proposed drinking water limits for PFAS, 10 states already have final or interim enforceable drinking water limits for PFAS.

Again, we’d love to hear from you!  Visit Lunz Group Blogspot to learn more and to post your comments.

Article from TheState Newspaper
Online Data by Sample site in South Carolina. The Black River is in the PeeDee  watershed
Here's a map of the PFAS sample sites

 Focus on PFAS Part 2:


Our last article focused on PFAS in drinking water and mentioned home filter systems.  Whole house and under-sink systems can be expensive.  Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published an evaluation of countertop devices that lower PFAS levels by 100% (or close to it).  Here are their top 4 recommendations:

Travel Berkey Water Filter



This is an expensive filter. But it does offer a few perks for that large upfront cost, including 100 percent elimination of forever chemicals measured in these tests and a useful life of many years.

Pros: Non-plastic design; large water capacity; 100 percent PFAS reduction and exceptionally long filter life, at more than 8 years, if using 2 gallons per day.

Cons: Very high initial cost.

Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher with Affinity Filtration Technology



One of three filters tested that achieved a 100 percent reduction in PFAS from drinking water, it nevertheless takes a fair amount of time to use – it took twice as long as some other brands for the water to pass through the filter into the pitcher.

Pros: Total PFAS elimination; clear design makes it easy to track how much water remains; the large pitcher size means refilling is less frequent.

Cons: EWG user experience suggests it can be tricky to install the filter correctly and make sure it is tightened to the reservoir; the water passes slowly through the filter; filters need to be pressure-primed at the faucet, which is difficult and can be annoying – and not accessible for those with upper body or hand strength limitations.

Zero Water 7 Cup 5-Stage Ready-Pour Water Filter Pitcher



The third filter tested eliminated 100 percent of the forever chemicals. The sale price makes it one of the filters with the lowest initial cost for an average family of four consuming 2 gallons per day – it cost our tester less than $25 to buy the filter and pitcher.

Pros: 100 percent reduction of PFAS and low initial cost; replacing filters is simple and quick.

Cons: The tradeoff for the low upfront cost is that the filters have a short life and must be replaced often, which means costs soon add up; the water reservoir is small and you'll need to frequently refill the pitcher.

Epic Pure Pitcher



Our tester’s overall favorite to use, this filter’s design is simple – it has a large reservoir that is easy to access and refill. Replacing filters is also straightforward. The filter removed about 98 percent of forever chemicals in the drinking water tested.

Pros: The longer filter life of 150 gallons means paying for fewer replacement filters, and it’s less expensive in the first year than the three filters that reduce 100 percent of the PFAS.

Cons: This filter has a higher initial cost than some other varieties, though cost of the replacement filters is mid-range.

Again, we’d love to hear what you discover about PFAS in your world!  You can post your comments on Facebook page for Robert Lunz Group South Carolina Chapter Sierra Club.




 December 12, 2023

Okay, we know that PFAS is everywhere in our external environment and within 99% 
of us humans. So, what’s being done and how can we avoid it?
What’s Being Done? 
Federal action to stop the flow of PFAS and clean up PFAS contamination is moving 
too slowly. But progress has been made.

• The Biden administration in 2021 laid out a PFAS action plan.
• In early 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled proposed
national drinking water standards for six PFAS.
• California and other states have banned or regulated PFAS in personal care
products, children’s products, some textiles, carpets and rugs, and firefighting foam,
among other products.
• Under market pressure, some big retailers have eliminated or reduced PFAS in their products.
What Can You Do to Lower Your Risk? 
Think about taking these steps recommended by EWG:
• Filter Your Water:  Consider buying a countertop or undersink filter system that can eliminate
 nearly 100% of PFAS.
• Coming Clean: It’s hard to know what’s in your cleaners – companies aren’t required to disclose 
their ingredients. Try to find EWG VERIFIED Cleaners.
•  Good Grooming: Choose personal care products without PTFE or fluoro ingredients. Look for 
products with the EWG VERIFIED® mark, which are free from ingredients of concern.
• Cooking Utensils: Avoid using nonstick cookware and utensils. Teflon, which makes your 
cookware nonstick, is the granddaddy of all forever chemicals. 
Don’t use it. Choose stainless steel or cast iron instead.
• Takeout Containers: Cut back on fast food and greasy carry-out. Many containers are 
treated with PFAS, which then leach into our food. That includes microwave popcorn bags.
• Stain- and Water-Repellent Clothing: This is a tough one for us outdoor types! 
They’re usually made with PFAS. Look for products that say they’re PFAS-free, like furniture 

and carpets that haven’t been pre-treated.

Again, we’d love to hear from you!  Visit Lunz Group Blogspot to learn more and to 

post your comments.

Friday, August 18, 2023


Editorial: South Carolina needs to get serious about new wetlands protection

  • Jul 29, 2023
Woods Bay State Park (copy)

This Carolina Bay is protected from development because it is the feature of Woods Bay State Park, but other Carolina Bays face an uncertain future because of shifting laws and regulations regarding isolated wetlands. Provided

Heidi Stone

Two significant recent events should work together to push the issue of protecting South Carolina’s isolated wetlands toward the top of lawmakers’ agendas for the coming year.

The first is the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency that held that only wetlands connected to other surface waters are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act. That limits federal jurisdiction to areas with, in the ruling’s words, a “continuous surface water connection with a larger body of water.” While many in the environmental community have expressed concerns that the ruling — and the diminution of federal protection — will endanger more wetlands with development, that does not have to be the case.

States are free to step in and enact their own regulations to protect isolated wetlands, and we would urge S.C. lawmakers to do just that. Our state’s coastal plain has several Carolina Bays, isolated wetland features now apparently unprotected by the Clean Water Act. These unique and somewhat mysterious areas offer important habitat to unique birds and plants, and they also act as filters, improving regional water quality. One has been made into Woods Bay State Park in southwestern Florence County.

But Carolina Bays are far from the only sort of isolated wetlands left unprotected by the high court’s May ruling, which arrived at a moment when we are appreciating wetlands even more, not only for their contribution to biodiversity and water quality but also for their ability to limit flooding.

That’s where the other major development comes in: the June 29 release of South Carolina’s Strategic Statewide Resilience and Risk Reduction Plan, which recognizes the new realities regarding both flood-prone landscapes and our shifting regulatory landscape. 

“The (Sackett) decision puts some of South Carolina’s unique isolated wetlands features such as Carolina Bays at risk of unregulated development,” the plan says in one of its recommendations: “Isolated wetlands, such as Carolina Bays, offer habitat and flood mitigation in South Carolina. A majority are in the coastal zone where populations are increasing and therefore at an increased risk of loss to development. New state legislation should be enacted to regulate the alteration of these unique systems to reduce the potential loss of function.”

This might not be the most significant of the plan’s many recommendations, but it could represent some of the lower-hanging fruit. In a similar vein, the plan also recommends maintaining natural protection against flooding by prioritizing conservation work in areas known to help with absorbing heavy rainfalls and swollen rivers. The plan notes that the South Carolina Office of Resilience has public and private databases “identifying areas where floodwaters are expected, where wetlands can help absorb excess water, and those areas where water is most likely to infiltrate the ground as opposed to creating excess runoff. Protecting these areas may help attenuate the impact that future development has.”

While conservation work is vital for many reasons, an increased focus on protecting landscapes, particularly wetlands, will help lessen future flood risk.

Many environmentalists fear the new Supreme Court precedent will lead to further damaging decisions because many believe the notion of an isolated wetland is an oxymoron, since we know relatively little about how water is connected underground. Also, some lands are wet only certain times of the year, and it’s unclear which ones still will face review under the Clean Water Act, the goal of which is no net loss of our nation’s wetlands.

We share their concerns and urge state lawmakers to address them by acting next year to adopt new state-level protections. Many lawmakers bristle at federal intervention in areas where they believe state government could handle things better; this wetlands issue represents a chance for them to prove we can do better. But we’ll only succeed if they act.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


EPA Marks One Year of Progress Under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act

WASHINGTON (Aug. 16, 2023) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marks one year of progress implementing President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the most ambitious climate law in U.S. history and a core pillar of Bidenomics and the President's Investing in America Agenda. Since the legislation was signed into law, EPA has moved swiftly to put a historic $41 billion dollars to work to reduce emissions, build a clean economy, lower energy costs for American households and businesses, create good-paying union jobs, and advance environmental justice across the country.

“President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is the game-changer America needed for climate action,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The EPA team has been hard at work designing innovative programs to cut emissions in every sector of our economy, while empowering communities across the country with the resources to take decisive action. We are centering environmental justice in everything we do, ensuring communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis are benefiting from the public health, resilience, and economic opportunities unleashed by this transformative legislation. This is Bidenomics in action – achieving our ambitious climate and clean energy goals while investing directly in the wellbeing and prosperity of hard-working Americans.” 

EPA’s Inflation Reduction Act programs are helping meet President Biden’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by no later than 2050. Along with cutting emissions, these programs are advancing President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative to direct at least 40% of the overall benefits of these investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities to combat decades of underinvestment and address disproportionate environmental burden. 

Year One in Review

In just one year, EPA has made tremendous progress designing and implementing new Inflation Reduction Act programs. In November 2022, EPA was the first federal agency to award Inflation Reduction Act dollars by announcing more than $30 million to expand community air monitoring in 37 states, followed by an additional $25 million in clean air grants to improve air quality across the country.  

At the same time, from day one, EPA has prioritized robust stakeholder engagement, listening to states, municipalities, and Tribal governments, environmental justice and climate nonprofits, labor unions, and community-based organizations to inform the development of new programs. These perspectives will ensure EPA’s Inflation Reduction Act programs meet the unique needs of stakeholders and maximize the results of this historic funding for communities and the environment.

EPA first-year Inflation Reduction Act highlights include:

Designed and launched competitions for a national-scale clean energy financing network. The Inflation Reduction Act authorized EPA to implement the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a historic $27 billion investment to mobilize financing and private capital to combat the climate crisis and bolster the clean financing market. EPA has opened all three grant competitions under the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund including the $7 billion Solar for All competition, the $14 billion National Clean Investment Fund, and the $6 billion Clean Communities Investment Accelerator. All three of the competitive grant opportunities are designed to mobilize private capital into clean technology projects, strengthen the market for project deployment, create good-paying clean energy jobs, and lower energy costs for American families, while cutting harmful pollution to protect people’s health and tackle the climate crisis. These first-of-their-kind programs also support the President’s commitment to ensuring all communities can participate in the clean energy transition, with over two-thirds of the funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund dedicated to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Catalyzing innovative strategies to cut climate pollution and deploy clean energy solutions nationwide. EPA’s $5 billion Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program, created by the Inflation Reduction Act, is enabling states, municipalities, Tribes, and territories to develop community-driven solutions to dramatically cut climate pollution, transition key sectors, and position communities to be more resilient and sustainable. In year one of implementation, EPA made $250 million dollars available to fund the development of climate action plans, and nearly all states, plus major cities in all 50 states, have opted in to receive these flexible planning resources. In the coming weeks, EPA will announce a $4.6 billion grant competition to fund select initiatives developed under the first phase of the program. Together, these grants will catalyze transformative local climate solutions, enable communities to chart a path toward unprecedented emissions reductions, and create good-paying jobs across the country.  

Building the framework for the largest investment in environmental justice in U.S. history.

From day one of his administration, President Biden has made achieving environmental justice a top priority. The Inflation Reduction Act created a new Environmental and Climate Justice Program that EPA will launch this fall to provide more than $2 billion in grants and $200 million in technical assistance to community-based organizations to address community climate priorities. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights has conducted months of extensive public engagement to inform the design of this program, including with the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and hundreds of individuals from frontline communities. Under this program, disadvantaged communities will be able to apply for funding to support a vast array of community-driven priorities, from extreme heat mitigation to climate resilience to zero-emissions technologies and workforce development to expand pathways into high-quality jobs.

EPA launched competitions and will soon award funding for three new and expanded environmental justice grant programs totaling $650 million, including a $550 million  Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program, a $70 million Government-to-Government Program, and a $30 million  Collaborative Problem-Solving Program.

These Inflation Reduction Act activities build on EPA’s existing and ongoing commitment to underserved communities. Over the last year, EPA has launched and expanded innovative programs to provide more support than ever before to communities that unjustly bear the burdens of environmental harm and pollution. One highlight includes the $177 million for the creation of 16 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) to remove barriers to federal resources and help communities pursue funding opportunities like those made available through President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda.

Looking Ahead to Year Two

EPA made significant progress in the first year of implementing the historic Inflation Reduction Act and has laid a strong foundation to continue delivering robust results in year two. In the coming months, the agency will award billions in additional funding to states, cities, Tribal governments, community-based organizations, and other grassroots leaders on the front lines of combatting climate change and build a stronger, cleaner economy for all Americans. EPA will launch numerous additional cutting-edge Inflation Reduction Act programs to curb harmful methane emissions, reduce air pollution at ports and in surrounding communities, promote low-carbon construction materials, improve air quality at schools, and put more clean vehicles on America’s roads. EPA will remain steadfastly committed to delivering on President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure every community benefits from progress under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Americans are already witnessing how the Inflation Reduction Act is spurring private sector investment, accelerating state and local action, and delivering concrete evidence of clean energy progress across the country. Together, these investments will generate economic growth, contribute to the revitalization of American manufacturing, and create good paying union jobs that strengthen America’s middle class. This has been a historic year, and EPA will keep its pace in the second year of implementation to continue delivering on the vision and opportunities for people and the planet established by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Learn more about EPA’s implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act


Contact: EPA Press Office (