UF Engineering Hopes to Curb Harmful Chemicals in Landfills With EPA Grant (College of Engineering News)

UF Engineering Hopes to Curb Harmful Chemicals in Landfills With EPA Grant

The engineering profession has developed treatment technologies that address the myriad of different chemicals encountered in leachate. In recent years, however, potential health concerns form a newly appreciated suite of trace chemicals has emerged on the national stage: per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Thousands of PFAS chemicals have reportedly been developed and used in a multitude of industrial and commercial products, including firefighting foams, water-repelling agents in our clothes and shoes, and in food product packaging. Because PFAS chemicals are designed for purposes such as repelling water and stains, and to keep materials from sticking to one another, they tend to be mobile and persistent when they enter the environment and thus are not easily removed with existing treatment technologies.

Timothy Townsend, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences at UF’s Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, and his team from the Sustainable Materials Management Research Lab (SMMRL) at UF are spearheading research to study PFAS at landfills and waste streams as a whole. “Today the scientific community recognizes that PFAS chemicals, many of which are known or suspected to impact human health, can be found in our water, surrounding ecosystems, animal life, and in every one of us right now,” Dr. Townsend said.

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