The crucial role of Activated Carbon in PFAS Treatment: Addressing contamination at defence sites

F-16 fighter jets taxiing to the runway

The growing awareness and concern over per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, particularly at defence sites, has sparked urgent calls for effective solutions. PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals used in various industrial applications and consumer products, have been linked to serious health issues and environmental concerns. One highly effective solution for addressing PFAS contamination is the use of activated carbon.

At James Cumming and Sons, we manufacture and supply C&S Brand Australian Granular (GAC) and Powdered (PAC) Activated Carbons for water and wastewater treatment, environmental remediation and the removal of various organic compounds. We have successfully assisted clients in the defence sector with PFAS removal from contaminated water and soil, ensuring safer environments and compliance with regulatory standards.

Understanding PFAS contamination

PFAS are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their resistance to degradation. Widely prevalent in firefighting foams, non-stick cookware, water-repellent fabrics and many other common products, their persistence and bioaccumulation pose significant health risks. Studies have shown that PFAS exposure can lead to liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility and an increased risk of certain cancers.

Defence sites, in particular, have become hotspots for PFAS contamination due to the extensive use of firefighting foams during training exercises and emergency responses. These foams, containing high levels of PFAS, have seeped into soil and groundwater, posing significant risks to nearby communities and ecosystems.

The role of activated carbon in PFAS contamination

Activated Carbon has become a leading solution for PFAS treatment of defence sites due to its exceptional adsorption properties. Derived from carbon-rich organic materials like coal, wood and coconut shells, this porous material undergoes activation to amplify its surface area and enhance its capacity to capture contaminants.

Key benefits of Activated Carbon for PFAS removal at defence sites

  1. High-adsorption capacity – As mentioned, Activated Carbon’s large surface area and porous structure enable a high adsorption capacity that can effectively capture a wide range of contaminants, including PFAS, even in low concentrations.
  2. Versatility – Activated Carbon can take various forms, such as Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Powdered Activated Carbon (PAC), allowing it to adapt to different treatment systems. Whether used in fixed-bed reactors or directly added to water treatment processes, it efficiently removes PFAS from contaminated water.
  3. Proven effectiveness – Many studies and real-world applications confirm Activated Carbon’s effectiveness in reducing PFAS levels. For example, municipal water treatment plants have successfully used GAC to remove PFAS, ensuring safe drinking water for communities.
  4. Cost-effective – Activated Carbon is a cost-effective solution for PFAS removal compared to other technologies like Ion Exchange resins. Its reusability and regeneration capabilities enhance economic viability, making it a preferred choice for large-scale applications.
  5. Environmental benefits – Activated carbon treatment eliminates PFAS and minimises the production of harmful by-products. This environmentally friendly approach aligns with the increasing emphasis on sustainable and green technologies.

Case studies and success stories

Several defence sites, armed forces facilities and military bases have already implemented Activated Carbon treatment systems with promising results. For instance, the U.S. Air Force has deployed GAC systems at multiple bases to treat groundwater contaminated with PFAS from firefighting foam use. These systems have significantly reduced PFAS concentrations, protecting human health and the environment.

In a separate case, a community near a former military training site in Australia experienced a dramatic decrease in PFAS levels in their drinking water following the installation of GAC filters. This measure ensured access to safe water and, importantly, reinstated public trust and confidence in the local water supply.

Future prospects and ongoing research

Fire Fighters in training holding using hose to stop fire

As understanding of PFAS and their impacts continues to evolve, ongoing research aims to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of activated carbon treatment at defence sites and military installations.

Global regulatory frameworks are tightening, with many countries imposing stricter limits on PFAS levels in drinking water and the environment. This trend is expected to drive increased adoption of activated carbon and advanced treatment technologies to ensure compliance and protect public health.

Talk to the experts in Activated Carbon for PFAS removal at defence sites

Activated Carbon is vital for combatting PFAS contamination, particularly at defence sites. Its proven effectiveness, versatility and cost-efficiency make it essential for modern water treatment. As we tackle PFAS challenges, Activated Carbon will continue to lead, safeguarding water resources and promoting a healthier future.

At James Cumming & Sons Pty Ltd, we offer customised Activated Carbon solutions to meet PFAS treatment demands. Our high-performance products ensure reliability, empowering communities and industries to address contamination challenges confidently.

Contact us to discover how our Activated Carbon can support your PFAS treatment needs.

Our product range

Activated Carbon

Granular & Powdered Forms
  • High internal surface area
  • Rapid diffusion kinetics
  • Greater loading capacity
  • Optimal mesh sizing
  • Made to premium standards

Support Filter Media

Silica & Garnet Gravels
  • Ideal specific gravity
  • Low acid solubility
  • Optimal hardness
  • Consistent particle sizing
  • Select raw material bodies

Graded Coal

Glass Colourisation
  • Consistent particle sizing
  • Reliable fixed carbon content
  • Strict quality control
  • Low inherent moisture
  • Cost effective glass colourisation

Coal Dust

Iron Foundries
  • Thermal and calorific properties
  • Consistent volatiles content
  • No foreign impurities
  • Very low sulphur
  • Creates a fine lustrous iron cast

Australian Zeolite

Ammonia Removal
  • Naturally occurring mineral body
  • Turbidity and ammonia removal
  • Heavy metal removal
  • Clinoptilolite largest component
  • Wide range of applications

Australian Filter Coal

C&S Brand
  • Superior durability
  • Optimal uniformity coefficient
  • Consistent particle sizing
  • Low specific gravity
  • Ideal filtration quality

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