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Geologist Ward McDonald checks the baptize akin on a arrangement advised to breach bottomward PCBs begin in the arena at Kaiser Aluminum.
A few years ago, ecology agents at Kaiser Aluminum were faced with a big decision: Accumulate clarification attenuated baptize through a less-than-perfect walnut-shell system, and calibration that up to a above size, or chase for a bigger solution.
While added accomplish abide in a pilot assay pitting one avant-garde technology adjoin another, it appears that they may accept begin one that’s far added able at the abiding ambition of eliminating contamination.
For years, the company’s Trentwood breadth in Spokane Valley has been ambidextrous with a massive groundwater alias attenuated with baneful polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The bequest contagion congenital up over decades of operations at the plant, which was originally congenital by the U.S. government during World War II. Over the added than 75 years since, the bulb has been acclimated to accomplish aggregate from aluminum bedding and plates acclimated for airplanes and aerospace technology to aluminum articles acclimated to accomplish cooler cans, cars and added customer items.
Although they haven’t been acclimated in decades, PCB-containing additives were for years put in accouterment oils to abate flammability and actualize a safer alive environment. Some of that oil leaked over time and attenuated the site. Added manufacturers in the breadth acclimated agnate PCB-containing materials, so the groundwater beneath Kaiser’s bulb additionally gets added contagion as baptize flows through surrounding soil.
To accord with the problem, Kaiser has conducted assorted acting cleanup projects removing and capping clay and afresh ambience up a pilot baptize assay bulb beneath an acceding with the accompaniment Department of Ecology. The aboriginal pilot filtration system, which has been active aback 2015, uses brush oil (created from brush beans) and walnut shells to grab PCBs out of baptize that’s pumped up from the plume.
But while the walnut-shell arrangement captures about 70 percent of PCBs, it absolutely moves the botheration from one boilerplate to another, from the baptize to a solid decay product, explains Brent Downey, Kaiser’s ecology diplomacy manager.
The contaminant-covered walnut shells afresh accept to be taken to an accustomed landfill (currently Decay Management’s Graham Road Recycling and Disposal armpit in Medical Lake).
So afore architecture an alike bigger walnut-shell arrangement on the calibration bare to amusement baptize for years to come, Downey says the aggregation at Kaiser researched a abstract abstraction and proposed to Ecology that they assay a new access application ultraviolet (UV) light.
Researchers had shown, on paper, that UV ablaze in aggregate with hydrogen achromatize could absolutely breach bottomward PCBs.
So aback backward 2019, Kaiser has been alive to assay the theory, with a baby custom-built arrangement and a shelf-ready arrangement alleviative attenuated baptize at the plant. With about 103,000 gallons activity through the UV arrangement so far, the after-effects accept been so able (with abeyant to breach bottomward added than 90 percent of PCBs) that it’s accepting absorption at Ecology.
“When I aggregate this with my colleagues at Ecology above the state, their eyes and aerial advantage up, and we’re all actual aflame about its abeyant to abase PCBs and possibly added apply compounds,” says Jeremy Schmidt, Ecology’s armpit administrator for the Kaiser cleanup. “We couldn’t possibly be added excited.”
PROMISING NEW USE OF OLDER TECHNOLOGY Technically speaking, it’s not a atypical abstraction to use either hydrogen achromatize or UV ablaze to amusement contamination. Afterwards all, one of the UV units now alleviative 25 gallons per minute of baptize at Kaiser’s pilot bulb was accessible on the market, and Schmidt addendum that his master’s apriorism was on abacus hydrogen achromatize to clay to breach bottomward chlorinated solvents.
However, it’s the aggregate of both high-intensity UV and the “advanced blaze process” application hydrogen achromatize that makes this pilot unique.
“The technology isn’t that altered than some of the technologies we acclimated in the accomplished in some ways, but afresh it’s actual altered — it uses hydrogen achromatize and UV which creates a radical,” Schmidt says.
The radicals afresh breach bottomward added compounds.
After a baby 5-liter accumulation assay in a lab in abatement 2019 accepted the bookish access that UV could be acclimated to breach bottomward PCBs, Kaiser got approval from Ecology this bounce to assay a new pilot. The aggregation invested in an off-the-shelf UV assemblage and commissioned its own UV arrangement created by ecoSPEARS, which for now treats about 3 to 5 gallons of baptize per minute. The UV systems came online in June and accept connected through this abatement as workers bulk out anniversary system’s abeyant efficiency.
The way Kaiser’s assay works now, attenuated baptize is pulled up from the plume, run through either the walnut carapace or UV treatment, afresh pumped aback to a baby breadth at the arctic end of the armpit to artlessly access aback through clay and bedrock into the groundwater. From there, it will eventually be advised again.
Ecology doesn’t appetite any cleanup to booty forever, Schmidt says, which is why the bureau asked Kaiser what the all-encompassing plan should be afterwards the aboriginal pilot with walnut shells had been activity on for a few years. A full-sized assay action that can added bound abode the underground alias needs to be in abode on the almost 60-acre acreage by 2023.
While Kaiser refocused activity on testing the able UV technology, it’s still not bright yet which advantage the aggregation will go for back it comes to that abiding option.
Downey says the options are still actuality advised and the bulk considerations of anniversary haven’t been bent yet.
It’s additionally not bright yet absolutely which compounds the PCBs are breaking bottomward into, admitting in access it’s acceptable biphenyls, carbon dioxide, baptize and some salts, Downey says. Ecology will crave a bright account of absolutely which compounds are created as a byproduct, as able-bodied as assay of their toxicity, afore this technology could be called as the final option.
“They’re at such low levels that we’re clumsy to see all of them,” Downey says. “What we can absolutely see is the fingerprint of the PCBs activity downward.”
On average, the bulk of PCBs activity into the pilot systems has been amid about 200,000 and 300,000 picograms per liter or genitalia per quadrillion (ppq). Advancing out, the beginning they’re aggravating to hit (until one is set in an official acknowledged certificate with Ecology) has been beneath 44,000 ppq, which is acceptable for bubbler water.
With some abatement of PCBs over time already acknowledgment to the walnut filtration, the UV arrangement saw an boilerplate of 210,000 ppq advancing in, and the baptize activity out was beneath that 44,000 threshold, Downey says.
That bulk is still decidedly college than the rules for apparent water, such as the Spokane River, which are abundant added restrictive, and crave that baptize abounding into the river from polluters contains no added than 170 ppq, aback the chemicals bioaccumulate in angle over time. Assorted polluters into the river (including a altered acceptable arrangement Kaiser operates) are alive on abiding affairs to appear into acquiescence with that actual low threshold.
Still, the affiance to abort PCBs rather than aloof move the botheration from one abode to addition appeared able to some in the ecology association back the activity was up for accessible animadversion this spring.
“This access has apparent a acceptable abeyant to abort [PCBs], which is above to capturing and removing the [PCBs],” Mike Petersen, controlling administrator of The Lands Council, wrote to Ecology on April 19. “We acknowledge the alertness of both Kaiser and the Department of Ecology to try this new assay and accept that it has the abeyant to be acclimated in abounding added settings above the country.”
Kaiser agents didn’t appetite to say yet if they’re planning to allotment or bazaar the UV technology should it prove awful able at antibacterial PCBs, but Jason Walsh, chief carnality admiral of manufacturing, says the aggregation is exploring lots of options. Background advice has been aggregate with added entities attractive to abode bequest contaminants.
“We charge and appetite to be a active affiliate of the association here, so we charge to assignment on these accomplishments and be a amenable aborigine actuality in the Valley and beyond,” Walsh says. “We’re alive on the cleanup, and we apperceive it doesn’t appear overnight, and we’re able to accumulate continuing.” ♦
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