Evaluation and Life Cycle Comparison of Ex-Situ Treatment Technologies for Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Groundwater

There is considerable and growing concern over per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) because of their ubiquitous presence and recalcitrance in the environment and toxicity towards humans and wildlife. This Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) proposal funded by the Department of Defense focuses on benchmarking existing and emerging treatment approaches for PFAS in groundwater, including granular activated carbon (GAC), ion exchange (IX), high-pressure membranes, and superfine powdered activated carbon and microfiltration (sPAC/MF) at the laboratory scale. In addition, the team will select one or more emerging destructive technologies for treatment of residual streams at the laboratory scale and estimate their life cycle costs. The overall goal is to demonstrate the capabilities of these treatment technologies for removal of PFAS from different groundwaters and quantify the benefits and disbenefits (treatment capacity, life-cycle costs, etc.) for each technology, either as stand-alone processes or integrated treatment trains. This work will provide the user community decision support tools for the selection of treatment approaches based on long-term PFAS removal performance, life-cycle impacts and costs, and overall feasibility to implement the demonstrated technologies.

This project was funded by the Department of Defense (DOD).  Additional information about the project is available through the DOD website.


A comprehensive assessment of the various PFAS treatment technologies is needed to provide guidance to the DOD for selecting an appropriate treatment strategy. To fill this information gap, WRF’s project team will seek to generate the data necessary to compare, on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) and costing (LCC) basis, established and emerging PFAS treatment approaches.

While some technologies have been touted as effective for certain PFAS, each approach has limitations depending on site-specific contamination, treatment goals, and other factors. Currently, there is little guidance on the selection of treatment processes for site-specific goals.

Efforts will focus on gathering input from various stakeholders via a workshop and the development of a decision support tool.

Project Funding 

The total project funding is $990,452. 


Project Objectives

  • Development of a comprehensive assessment framework for ex-situ PFAS treatment technologies. Based on data gathered and generated during the course of the study, an LCA and LCC will be conducted to compare the effectiveness of various treatment scenarios using multiple metrics (e.g., treatment capability, cost, environmental and human health impacts). This framework is needed to develop effective strategies for ex-situ PFAS remediation.
  • Generation of a PFAS treatment efficiency database to support development of a decision support tool. Efforts will focus on collecting and generating treatment data for established and emerging treatment processes for the removal and/or destruction of PFASs in aquifers impacted by aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) and common co-contaminants. The technologies selected for the database will represent state-of-the-science approaches for PFAS treatment.  The team will collect existing data and augment the developed database with information gained from laboratory scale experiments.


Project Team 

  • Kenan Ozekin – The Water Research Foundation 

  • Chris Bellona and Chris Higgins - Colorado School of Mines 

  • Detlef Knappe - North Carolina State University  

  • Sherri Cook - University of Colorado Boulder 

  • Charles Schaefer - CDM Smith 



Please contact Dr. Kenan Ozekin with questions about the project.