We believe people should feel confident in the quality of their drinking water. PFOA and PFOS can be remediated in water and soil. Although the mere presence of these compounds does not mean they’re harmful, we have invested more than $200 million globally toward PFAS remediation—which includes testing and clean-up in areas where we’ve manufactured and disposed of PFAS materials. We have seen success in our proactive measures.
3M’s continued research into testing methods has also helped advance our technology tools to reliably detect and measure PFAS in the environment and people at lower levels than ever before. As our scientific and technological capabilities improve, we will continue to invest in cutting-edge detection and treatment technologies and work with communities to identify where this technology can make a difference. The more we all know about our water, the better off our communities will be.
There are a wide range of remediation tools and techniques and the appropriate techniques may vary by site and applicable laws and regulations. It’s also important to note that each PFAS compound is different and one removal technique may not work equally well for all PFAS compounds. We have identified and implemented several types of cleanup methods.
3M has used capping and containment options for PFAS-impacted soil at our manufacturing locations and disposal sites in Minnesota and Alabama. Capping can help reduce surface runoff and prevent precipitation from seeping through impacted soil into groundwater. This is done by constructing a flexible membrane liner (FML)—typically made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or engineered clay—over impacted areas to prevent direct contact with the soil.
Containment refers to the removal and transfer of impacted soil to a prepared location, such as a landfill cell. An engineered FML and leachate collection system can help eliminate any liquid from the soil, over time. The containment area is then capped with an FML to contain the material within the cell.
3M has used groundwater extraction and treatment in concert with capping and containment solutions. Groundwater extraction is the process of pumping up groundwater, often through a series of constructed wells. The extraction process lowers the water table in order to control the natural movement of groundwater within a desired location. This process of hydraulic containment is measured through a series of groundwater wells to confirm that the extraction process is working effectively. Water collected from the extraction process or from surface water or waste water is often treated using granular activated carbon (GAC) to adsorb residual levels of PFOS and PFOA to the carbon and reduce discharge to the environment. Once the GAC has been exhausted it is regenerated at a high temperature to destroy PFAS compounds that were adsorbed to the carbon. The regenerated carbon can then often be reused in non-drinking water treatment applications.
3M has been at the forefront of the development of analytical methods to measure PFAS compounds in the environment—investing more than $100 million toward this research. The company has continuously worked to develop accurate, reproducible and robust analytical methods to measure PFAS in a variety of environmental media such as drinking water, wastewater, groundwater, soils, sediments, as well as biological fluids and tissues. 3M’s analytical methods have laid the groundwork for many of the regulatory methods that have followed.
Our EHS Laboratory is ISO 17025 accredited, has more than 200 standard operating procedures, and operates under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP). We have used our analytical methods to better understand the fate and transport of PFAS compounds in the environment, as well as to evaluate methods to safely and reliably remove PFAS compounds from water. We have presented our results at national scientific meetings, and since 1994, our EHS lab has published more than 39 manuscripts regarding PFAS in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals.
3M remains committed to researching, evaluating and implementing advanced technology. We do our own research and partner with academic institutions and professional organizations to investigate and understand the role that new technology might bring in the future. For instance, emerging technology—such as ion exchange—may prove to be more technically and economically feasible.
We have published the results of our work in this area in leading peer reviewed scientific journals and have presented this work at national scientific meetings. One of our treatment technology publications has been cited in the work of other scientists over 200 times since 2009.