According to Paul Kloet, Deputy Director at Iv-Water, the project in Sluiskil correlates well with Iv-Water’s knowledge and experience. “These are the most interesting assignments for us. We can apply our knowledge to a practical issue that is linked to a current theme, which would be difficult to investigate on our own initiative. These are wonderful opportunities to examine how we can connect the entire chain more optimally.”
The latter is a greater goal within the division: to optimise the circularity of water. This begins with guaranteeing the quality of wastewater flows before they enter the natural environment, the intake of water for preparing drinking water, and stimulating the reuse of water flows in the industry.
This project in Sluiskil, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, is such an opportunity. Process Technologist Bart van der Veer is leading the research at HEROS on behalf of Iv-Water. The company processes Bottom Ash (BA) from various Waste-to-Energy Plants (WtE) into a building material using various techniques, including a washing installation. The core question is whether and how the washing water can be filtered or purified from PFAS? Of course, this can be done using modern purification methods such as reverse osmosis or ozone technology. But even more desirable would be to prevent high concentrations of PFAS from entering the wastewater in the first place.
Iv-Water is currently in the beginning phases of this research. “The licensing authority ultimately determines what is and is not permitted with regard to the discharging of PFAS,” explains Bart. “They warn of PFAS ending up in water flows, also through, for example, rainwater. For HEROS, however, the quality of the incoming waste-generated bottom ash varies greatly. The bottom ash is mostly relatively clean, but sometimes it still contains many unburned pieces: a potential source of PFAS. This unburned matter is sorted and sent back to the Waste-to-Energy Plant to be incinerated.”
However, this is not always sufficient. PFAS is artificial and has the property that it cannot be broken down by natural processes. It is a collection of chemical substances containing valuable properties for the industry sectors. It repels water, grease and dirt, which is why it is often and readily used in the clothing industry, the cosmetic world, but also, for example, in the production of lubricants or food packaging.