15 million + liters 

of highly contaminated waste water treated that would have otherwise been discharged to the environment.

3.5km

area was decontaminated using sustainable treatment processes and applying purpose-built technology applications.

3

countries representing Arcadians from Australia, the US and the UK collaborated to accelerate current PFAS research and development technology to implement a solution.

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The challenge

On Monday evening, 10 April 2017, an Australian aviation client reported that 22,000 liters of firefighting escaped from a failed deluge system within an airport hangar at an Australian Airport. Between 66% and 75% of the released foam was captured within the concrete bunded system inside the hangar. The remainder of the released foam escaped and entered the drain system that feeds to several airport pump stations and the sewer. 

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    Following the release, foam and dead fish were identified in an airport storm water channel that flows to Boggy Creek and into the Brisbane River. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection worked closely with Queensland Health, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and SafeFood Production Queensland to communicate to the public and commercial and recreational fishers about the spill and the recommendation to avoid fishing in the area. The impact of the PFAS chemical release could have long lasting impacts on the environment if the spillage was not contained, and the impacted water (15 million + liters) decontaminated. 

    Concerned local, state and federal governments and local community groups led the call for immediate action. Acting quickly and responsibly to stop PFAS contamination of the waterways was a priority, with the wellbeing of local communities and environmental impact a primary concern. Arcadis was engaged to develop an urgent, sustainable solution that would contain the spillage and contaminated water and halt immediate harm to the impacted communities and surrounding environment. Once this was achieved, the next challenge for Arcadis was to find a safe PFAS remediation process to dispose of the contaminated water. 

The solution

As technical experts, Arcadis’s first responsibility was to quickly evaluate potential treatment options including offsite disposal of the PFAS impacted water that was temporarily being stored onsite. Concurrently, Arcadis needed to design a clean-up process to decontaminate the PFAS impacted sewer system allowing it to be reopened. Both challenges required the Arcadis team to approach problem solving in an entirely new way. 

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    After evaluating the various treatment technologies that factored time-critical pressures and complexity of the impacted water, Arcadis recommended an Australian developed, new and innovative treatment process for the project. In a process that would normally take several months, the Arcadis team designed, built, permitted and commissioned the water treatment plant within 5-weeks, and began full-time treatment operations of the plant. Simultaneously, Arcadis developed a propriety method of decontaminating the sewer system, allowing our client to reopen the sewer and allow normal operations of the facility to resume.


    Multiple teams worked on-site 24 hours per day treating more than 15 million liters of highly contaminated waste containing high levels of PFAS that would have otherwise been discharged to the environment. The team needed to think innovatively and work quickly using current and in-development PFAS treatment technologies to decontaminate the infected water and site infrastructure. Agile work methods were required from everyone on the project to ensure success, with treatment and the associated design and construction process completed in real-time with readily available equipment and supplies.  Analytical techniques for PFAS were continuously refined by the laboratories which meant that Arcadis completed the pilot testing and commissioning without visibility of the laboratory results. It was a truly unprecedented fast-moving challenge that required unique expertise and teamwork under immense pressure. 


    Problem-solving on this scale called on Arcadians from all over the globe to apply their expertise in devising a lasting solution for the PFSA Australia problem. Teams from Australia, the UK and the US worked together, collaborating with a Tasmanian-based technology partner Evocra to develop a unique solution to meet this challenge. 

The impact

Finding solutions to potential environmental issues saves lives and protects the environment. Arcadians who worked on the project had the health of potentially impacted people and wildlife on their minds as they worked on an urgent solution.

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    The innovation applied to the PFAS water treatment plant treatment process utilizing existing Arcadis research and further collaboration with Evocra, was one of the fastest and most innovative programs the Australian Restoration team has worked on to date. The successful approach to decontaminating the PFAS impacted site can also be used to treat other PFAS impacted sites around the world thanks to breakthrough research and development of sustainable decontamination and remediation processes that was accelerated for the cleanup. 


    Importantly, the innovative methods and data developed by Australian and global Arcadian teams throughout the project has helped position Arcadis as a global leader in PFAS treatment and assessment fields ensuring a sustainable and efficient approach to these types of chemical leaks should they occur in the future in natural environments across the globe.


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