A federal roadmap for addressing PFAS chemicals calls for more cleanup work in the United States. You might say a water treatment technology company called Aclarity is taking a different path: destroying the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, aka PFAS, using a proprietary electrochemical process.
“This new, unique treatment method replaces standard PFAS disposal methods such as capturing for incineration, deep-well injection and sending to landfill,” the Massachusetts company says.
Aclarity’s work will be boosted after closing a $3.3 million seed financing round. This year, the company plans to double the size of its team to 13 employees, complete two long-term pilots at customer sites and develop a model for a 2023 pilot.
They’ll be addressing PFAS in firefighting foam storage tanks, wastewater from laundromats and pulp and paper, and more. PFAS, aka forever chemicals, can contaminate water and have been linked to cancer.
Aclarity Chief Science Officer Orren Schneider says his company’s method is a better alternative to removing PFAS compounds from water streams and transferring them to filter media to be tossed into the environment.
“We actually destroy these molecules, turning them into harmless byproducts in a single process,” Schneider said in a statement.
How Does It Work?
Company CEO Julie Bliss Mullen explains:
“Electricity is applied to an anode and cathode, water flows through the reactor, and contaminants are destroyed by strong oxidants such as free electrons (which break the PFAS bonds), hydroxyl radicals, ozone and chlorine that are generated inside of the Aclarity reactor.
“The result is inert and harmless byproducts—water that is free of PFAS, ammonia, cyanide, (volatile organic compounds), pathogens and other harmful contaminants. This is not a filter that is tossed and replaced, rather a technology that chemically destroys contaminants forever.”
From forever chemicals to forever destroyed, in other words.
The company’s target customers are owners of centralized waste treatment facilities that process multiple streams of concentrated industrial wastewater and landfill leachate. While PFAS is not regulated as hazardous waste, customers are paying $60 per 1,000 gallons, including changing out filters every other day, Mullen says.
Aclarity’s system is $6 per 1,000 gallons, with a payback around two years. “We eliminate the need to transport PFAS wastewater, reduce risk from existing and upcoming state and federal discharge regulations and stop the pollution cycle by destroying PFAS forever,” the CEO says.
Aclarity, founded in 2017, marked its first commercial install of a multi-reactor system in late 2021 for an undisclosed client in New York.
“This is a customer site in (New York) that stores road salt for road application. The salt pile leaches cyanide, which is previously sprayed on the salt to prevent caking, which greatly exceeds discharge regulations.
“Aclarity installed a full-scale system processing 11 gallons per minute to destroy the cyanide from water with an initial payback of six months. This cyanide project is derisking our system scale-up, operations, controls and service while longer sales cycle PFAS projects are being piloted.”
Aclarity leaders believe the company is well-positioned to tap into a $30 billion-plus market opportunity. Under the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $10 billion will go to monitor and treat PFAS across the country.
“We are building a world-class team to rid the world of PFAS and other harmful chemicals to increase public health and decrease cancer rates globally,” Mullen said in a statement.
Investors say the 2021 use case is a major milestone toward solving PFAS contamination.
“Aclarity has the potential to solve the monumental global PFAS problem rather than just moving the responsibility around,” Tom Ferguson, managing partner of Burnt Island Ventures, said in a statement. “Julie, Orren and the team have made remarkable progress, and we look forward to helping them accelerate in the months and years to come.”
Jason Pontin, partner at DCVC, added: “Aclarity’s technology eliminates contamination even beyond PFAS, and we are confident the company will achieve historical impact.”