Is it Possible to Remove PFAS From Biosolid Waste?

What is PFAS?

PFAS or Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to understanding PFAS and their effects on the planet, plants and animals as they are long-lasting chemicals and can now be found in the blood and, you guessed it, waste of animals worldwide.

The EPA and the scientific community acknowledge that PFAS harm animals and plants, but the exact extent of the potential impact is not fully known. While they’re currently studying these impacts in fresh water, the EPA has also stated that it is undergoing a process which, “will serve as the basis for determining whether regulation of PFOA and PFOS in biosolids is appropriate. If EPA determines that a regulation is appropriate, biosolids standards would improve the protection of public health and wildlife health from health effects resulting from exposure to biosolids containing PFOA and PFOS.”[1]

[1] National Association of Clean Water Agencies PFAS White Paper

PFAS in Biosolids

PFAS, chemicals designed not to break down in the environment, are used in a variety of commercial, consumer and industrial products and are admittedly widely present in the environment, according to the  EPA. [2]

PFAS are even present in the human body, and therefore, it’s understandable and inevitable that they would be found in wastewater and biosolids.

The approach to treating and disposing of wastewater and biosolids, which could contain varying levels of PFAS, has only begun to be studied by the EPA, there are already detailed regulations set by the EPA to ensure biosolids are handled in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment.Currently many wastewater facilities repurpose biosolids through land application. In fact, more than 60% of biosolids generated in the U.S. are land-applied.[3] Considering the EPA’s 40 C.F.R. Part 503 regulation and the understanding that PFAS are in biosolids, it’s reasonable to determine that another process to remove or make PFAS undetectable should be available before land application and the reintroduction of waste byproducts into the environment.

[2] National Association of Clean Water Agencies PFAS White Paper

[3] National Association of Clean Water Agencies PFAS White Paper

What is currently being regulated?

The EPA has been regulating and taking steps to limit and remove PFAS from the U.S. Since January 2023, the Biden administration acknowledges they have taken bold actions to regulate and monitor PFAS as its imported or manufactured in our country and to monitor and limit PFAS in drinking water.

As PFAS can be found in human and animal waste and is currently being monitored and regulated in drinking water, it’s a logical next step to believe that PFAS will likely be regulated in wastewater that is returned to the land or air through gasification.

Can PFAS be removed from biosolid waste?

While PFAS is long-lasting and sometimes called a “forever chemical,” it is possible to return solid waste that previously showed PFAS to undetectable levels of PFAS.

Through Stircor’s proprietary drying and gasification process, we use specific extreme temperatures to create Biochar that, when tested, returns a byproduct that has undetectable levels of PFAS.

Gasification of biosolids also results in creating a syngas that can be captured to offer carbon offset credits.

What Should Wastewater Treatment Facilities do to Combat PFAS?

Under current EPA regulations, facilities are already responsible for biosolid handling in a manner that protects humans and the environment. That’s likely the main goal for many wastewater treatment facilities.

Although further PFAS in biosolid regulation is further down the road for the EPA and potential future administrations, facilities still have a responsibility to their communities. The great news is that solutions don’t need to be costly or overly complicated, especially when partnering with third parties like Stircor to process and manage the removal of biosolids.

Learn more about ways to eliminate the detection of PFAS from biosolid byproducts and other beneficial reuse applications at