In early February 2020, ECT2 reached a significant milestone in the removal of per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from water at RAAF Base Williamtown: 1 billion litres of water having been treated since June 2017.

This was accomplished with three industry leading ECT2 water treatment systems removing an estimated 15.2kg of PFAS from surface and groundwater. This mass of PFAS removed would be enough to contaminate the water in 86,857 Olympic sized swimming pools to a level above the Australian drinking water Health-Based Guidance Value (HBGV). The volume of water contained in 86,857 Olympic sized swimming pools is equal to almost 40% of the volume of water in Sydney Harbour. Equally important to note—only 27 intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) of waste has been generated to date.

This milestone has been made possible with the support of multiple local and national sub contractors and partners; our international ECT2 colleagues; and the enduring dedication of Defence to lead the way in PFAS remediation efforts. Everyone involved is committed to sustainable water treatment processes that reduce the need by both current and future generations for subsequent management of waste by-products.

While the treatment of 1 billion litres of water is an exciting milestone, it is worth reflecting on the reason why landholders, scientists, engineers, regulators, and many other interested stakeholders continue to invest resources, time, and money into developing and refining technologies to remove PFAS from water.

PFAS: An Iceberg of a Challenge at Over 7,000 Compounds (and Growing)

In 2017, there were around 3,500 PFAS compounds that could be detected through analysis. The number of compounds now sits at over 7,000 and continues to increase. Extensive site investigation programs around the world over the last few years have confirmed that as a result of the historical and, in some cases, ongoing extensive use of PFAS containing products in industrial processes, fire-fighting, and many other activities, PFAS is ubiquitous in the environment. The human health and environmental impacts of these compounds continue to be assessed; however, as they are not a naturally occurring substance, it is recommended that exposure of humans, animals, aquatic species and plants to PFAS is minimised.

Globally, manmade and environmental factors have resulted in our critical water resources diminishing, making it imperative to ensure the available water can be used to its maximum capacity. The development of technologies that can reliably, sustainably, and cost effectively remove PFAS from water and maximise the use of our water resources plays a significant role in not only ensuring the protection of future generations but that these generations can enjoy access to water as we do today.

Continuing to partner with our clients to understand their needs; with regulators to ensure their clean up priorities are addressed; and with the research, scientific and technology development industry to meet the needs of all stakeholders including the community, forms a crucial role in technology development. ECT2 and our parent company, Montrose Environmental Group are proud to be part of such a unique industry, and we are committed to continuing the development of sustainable technologies that allows current and future generations to take full advantage of our finite water resources while meeting the growing needs of clients, regulators and the community.