PFAS, or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of engineered compounds. PFAS are comprised of thousands of manmade chemicals, and have been bulk-manufactured for use in a variety of other manufacturing processes or in commercial products themselves. PFAS were originally discovered in 1938 and their use in manufactured products has increased since that time, with a diverse range of products and applications using a variety of PFAS.

PFAS are used for their thermal stability, surfactant, and chemical-, oil-, and water-resistant properties in the manufacture of a variety of products. A notable example is the use of PFAS as a key component of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) and Fluoroprotein foams.

In recent years, advances in scientific knowledge and regulatory scrutiny, have contributed to a greater understanding and focus on PFAS site assessment, risk management, mitigation, and treatment


PFAS were incorporated in both commercial and consumer products. This included:





PFAS are components of firefighting foams such as AFFF and Fluoroprotein Foams.


  • Decades of the use and disposal of PFAS-containing products and manufacturing waste, coupled with their widespread use in firefighting foams, has led to their increasingly widespread presence in the environment, increasingly threatening drinking water supplies.
  • PFAS present some unique challenges as a result of their extreme persistence combined with high water solubility meaning they are mobile in the natural environment and so can impact drinking water supplies.
  • Management of PFAS poses some challenges as a result of their unique chemistry and environmental behaviour including bioaccumulation via interaction with proteins, and considering the regulatory scrutiny around PFAS, and their link to various health effects, a global effort to identify sustainable management methods is of the upmost importance. Arcadis is at the helm of providing clients with tailored solutions to their PFAS problem.
  • Arcadis is at the forefront of a global effort to sustainably manage PFAS. Arcadis is working with leading universities and technology providers to develop and apply innovative remediation solutions in four core materials: soil, water, concrete and firefighting foams.

Arcadis is at the forefront of a global effort to evaluate and remediate impacted sites and environments.

Site Evaluation and Restoration

Our industry-leading scientists and engineers are redefining the possibilities of Site Evaluation and Restoration. They achieve this through:

  • Investigation and evaluation of contaminated sites
  • Development of cost-effective site management strategies
  • Design and implementation of optimised remediation treatments

Hydrogeological Services

Our team of qualified hydrogeologists have expertise in both contaminated sites and water resources. Our service offering includes:

  • Dewatering studies
  • Pumping tests and analysis
  • Groundwater supply and water resource evaluation
  • Groundwater impact assessments
  • Groundwater fate and transport modelling


 PFAS containing Class-B firefighting foams, such as Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) and Fluoroprotein Foams were extremely common in previous decades. These firefighting foams historically contain  fluorine which is increasingly regulated and may pose a possible risk to drinking water.


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Taking a proactive approach to scrutiny that now accompanies the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams, Arcadis can offer several solutions and alternatives. For example, Arcadis can help in the transition from PFAS-AFFF to fluorine free foams, or in the cleaning process related to this transition and management projects are underway in the US, EU-UK, and Australis for airports, aerospace, and defense sector clients.



Class-B firefighting foam chemistry has evolved over time and varies by manufacturer. Arcadis’ product stewardship group has a detailed understanding of foam chemistry, how to asses foams for PFAS that may be difficult to detect with standard methods, and how historical and current foam ingredients may be subject to regulations across many global jurisdictions.


Arcadis helps transition to fluorine-free foams (F3), so risk of contamination is completely reduced. F3 foams are popular in Europe and Asia, as they are biodegradable and eliminate the possibility for future environmental liabilities. In the US, the PAA passed legislation in 2018 allowing fir the transition to f3 at all major airports.


While many Class-B firefighting foams no longer contain PFOS or PFOA, they do contain other PFAS that may be subject to future regulations. Arcadis has developed and applied a cleaning agent to aid in removing PFAS residuals absorbed to surfaces of metallic, concrete, or ceramic infrastructure.


With the high mobility of PFAS, it is possible that the chemical can be found in concrete and manmade structures. Due to the porous nature of concrete, PFAS can diffuse and partition into concrete and self-assemble on concrete surfaces, especially after years or decades of contact with Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) in fire training. 


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While remediation of existing concrete infrastructure can be challenging, Arcadis regularly partners with technology vendors and clients to provide expert consultancy and advisory services in this area, working to develop practical management strategies.



Arcadis regularly liases with technology vendors utilizing a variety of licensed proprietary technologies which, when applied to concrete can create surface barriers to stabilize PFAS and prevent long term leaching. These products can be sprayed on or applied as a paste to concrete infrastructure.


With the high mobility of PFAS, its presence in water is increasingly common. Protecting drinking water is the primary objective of regulators, and often the initial PFAS-related regulations in a given jurisdiction will focus on protecting the public. Bodies of water can become contaminated with PFAS through runoff or percolation of rain water through PFAS-impacted soils and infrastructure into the environment. 


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“Arcadis has significant global expertise in the treatment of PFAS-impacted groundwater, surface water and drinking water. In the past 15 years, Arcadis’ water team have designed and installed approximately 30 large-scale water treatment systems worldwide using a variety of technologies.”



Adsorption techniques work by using an adsorptive media, such as granular activated carbon (GAC) or ion exchange resins (IX), to attract and capture PFAS compounds from water onto the surface of the adsorptive media. Adsorption technologies provide a relatively quick and lower capital cost remedial option. However, adsoptive media may only treat some of the PFAS present in the water stream, and the carrying cost (i.e., operation and maintenance) to maintain this treatment technology long term can be onerous. There is usually an upside to evaluating PFAS water treatment from a treatment train perspective in order to increase efficiency and lower longer term cumulative costs.


Arcadis is actively collaborating globally with academics and military agencies to develop and optimize water treatment for a wide range of PFAS. Our water treatment strategy focuses on separating or adsorbing PFAS from an impacted water stream into an increasingly lower volume PFAS waste concentrate that is then destroyed using secondary treatment processes. The treated water can then be safety  used or discharged. Our R&D efforts include developing more selective adsorbents that require less pretreatment, separating PFAS from water with foam fractionation, and working on new destructive approaches to treating PFAS-impacted concentrates with electron beam and Sonolysis.


Developed by Evocra in partnership with Arcadis, the process of foam fractionation can remove elevated levels of PFAS present with a variety of other co-contaminants that would otherwise require pre-treatment with conventional approaches. By exploiting the tendency of specific PFAS to partition to the gas-liquid interface, foam fractionation can achiever greater then 99% removal PFAS, and can provide advantages for groundwater or wastewater streams that are co-polluted with other ions or organics that make off the shelf adsorption technology extremely inefficient, expensive and potentially impossible.


PFAS impacted solid may result in PFAS migration in to surface and groundwater. Characterization of soil PFAS impacts in source areas and, if appropriate, soil remediation, is often key to understand fate and transport and develop strategies to limit PFAS migration and risk.


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Sending PFAS-impacted soils off site to a landfill is increasingly either an expensive solution, or potentially a strategy that results in long term liabilities. In many countries, it is no longer a viable option. Arcadis focuses on providing safer and cost-effective solutions, applying their innovation to several key methods:



Stabilization of PFAS in soil can be achieved by applying fixing agents to the soil, such as organoclay, activated carbon, or other proprietary soil amendments. Stabilization can reduce or prevent PFAS leaching from soil, effectively minimizing the risk factor related to disposing (unstabilized) soils off site in landfill or managing them on site in a containment strategy.


Soil washing is a separation process that employs a range of physical and chemical techniques to remove PFAS from soils. Washing is done by transferring PFAS into the liquid phase, where it can be more readily treated or concentrated using a variety of water treatment technologies. Once treated, the washed soil may then be suitable for reuse.


Regulatory hierarchy of management options for soils usually prefer onsite management options before offsite treatment or disposal. Onsite options could take the form of onsite caps and/or containment cells.

Arcadis engineers and scientists have extensive experience in the design and construction of caps and containment cells that can be used in conjunction with the above treatment options.


Multiple thermal treatment options are increasingly available for the management of PFAS in soil. Some commercially offered techniques apply elevated temperatures to soil in an onsite treatment unit to absorb the PFAS into a separate phase such as vapor or liquid. The PFAS concentrate can then be thermally destroyed at an even higher temperature or disposed. Thermal  treatment of soil may require special permitting considerations and a plan for managing emissions to avoid unintended PFAS releases to air.

We all deserve a safe environment to live in.


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