An innovative Interior Alaska incinerator permitted for destroying per- and polyfluoralkyl chemicals (PFAS) is being closely monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its success cleaning toxic soil, Fairbanks’ KTUU-TV reported Tuesday.
The NRC Alaska thermal remediation facility, permitted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), began operation in March, according to the report.
“Our technology is the only technology right now that is known to handle and destroy PFAS,” Mark Sanford, general manager for NRC Alaska told KTUU.
The incinerator heat-cleans soil and then uses additional high-temperature processes and filters to control emissions, the KTUU report said.
“So, the dirt’s completely clean, and we’re destroying anything that’s coming off the dirt,” Sanford said.
He said tests reveal that if the incinerator processed soils 24/7/365, its smokestack would accumulate less than one-one-hundredth of a pound of PFAS annually, according to the report.
Alaska’s DEC Commissioner Jason Brune says tests show “almost complete thermal destruction…0.0015 pounds of PFAS chemicals will, if operated on an annual basis, will come out of the stack,” the KTUU report said.
But a recent EPA technical brief acknowledges “the effectiveness of incineration to destroy PFAS compounds and the tendency for formation of fluorinated or mixed halogenated organic byproducts is not well understood.”
Insufficient temperatures, time, and mixing can yield less-than-ideal results causing incomplete combustion, according to EPA.
Watchdog groups have concerns the incinerator doesn’t destroy PFAS and worry the chemicals could become airborne, the KTUU report said.
“We haven’t seen the official report,” said Patrice Lee representing Citizens for Clean Air and WATER (Wake Up Alaskans to the Toxic Environmental Reality), according to KTUU.
“We haven’t seen the conditions under which the testing was done specifically. We don’t know where exactly the soils were collected for the test. Those things may all be in a report, but the DEC and the EPA are going to have to do a better job at helping the public understand why this isn’t a threat to us in any way,” she added.
Brune said Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base has considered exporting contaminated soils to Oregon at the cost of millions, according to KTUU. If incineration works it could be an alternative, the report said.
Next week the EPA travels to Alaska to perform tests and assess success in cleaning soils and keeping PFAS controlled, according to KTUU.