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 is 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.
We know scientists and researchers across the country are trying to solve similar problems, too.
If you’re a researcher or academic institution seeking free fluorocarbon analytical standards to calibrate your equipment, please submit a request here.
Samples are delivered only to researchers and institutions in the United States.
PFAS stands for a broad group of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The group contains several categories and classes of durable chemicals and materials with properties that included oil, water, temperature, chemical and fire resistance, as well as electrical insulating properties.
Processes to commercially produce PFAS were first developed in the 1940s. In the 1950s, 3M began manufacturing PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS, for product applications because of their ability to repel water, protect surfaces, resist heat and many other useful properties.
While some research has indicated possible associations with certain biomarkers or health outcomes in people for PFOA and PFOS, results across studies examining these endpoints have found either inconsistent or conflicting observations and do not show causation. 3M and other leading experts around the world continue to research PFAS to look for potential health issues.