Webinar: Pollution Prevention Opportunities for Ammonia Emissions in the Food and Beverage Sector

Register today for a free webinar from the US EPA, Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) will cover their recently completed food and beverage pollution prevention (P2) work funded under EPA Region 5’s Pollution Prevention Grant Program. The webinar will provide attendees with:

  • an overview of the sources of emissions of ammonia from the industrial refrigeration systems commonly used in food and beverage processing facilities;
  • a summary of refrigerant inventory determination methods for industrial ammonia systems, including an Ammonia Inventory Calculator, which is a new online resource to estimate the operating charge of existing systems; and
  • the use of dynamic charge calculations for flagging refrigerant losses from systems that would otherwise go undetected.

Applications of these methods, along with best practices for identifying and eliminating fugitive ammonia leaks identified during fieldwork in Wisconsin food and beverage plants will also be discussed.

Speakers:

  • Douglas Reindl, Ph.D., P.E., Professor UW-Madison & Director of the Industrial Refrigeration Consortium
  • Marc Claas, Researcher, UW-Madison’s Industrial Refrigeration Consortium

University of Wisconsin-Madison logo

Industrial Refrigeration Consortium logo

 

 

 

Register online at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6143302827653408272.

Questions? Please contact Christine Anderson, US EPA Region 5.

 

ISTC provides technical assistance from a distance

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois makes companies and communities more competitive and resilient with sustainable business practices, technologies, and solutions. TAP works at the intersection of industry, science and government to help clients achieve profitable, sustainable results.

In service to the State of Illinois, ISTC provides all Illinois organizations, businesses, manufacturing facilities, institutions and governments the opportunity for one free site visit and sustainability assessment from TAP. However, in light of the Governor’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on non-essential travel for University personnel as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, TAP staff members are currently not conducting in-person site visits.

But this does not mean that we are not still here to serve you. Our staff members are working remotely, and are available to help your business or community with:

  • Answers to questions related to waste reduction, water and energy efficiency and conservation
  • Guidance on institutional water treatment, particularly given recent changes to building use patterns
  • Greening your supply chain
  • Sustainability visioning, goal setting, planning and communication with stakeholders
  • Information on alternative technologies and processes to reduce resource consumption, hazardous material use, and emissions
  • General recommendations for process improvement, which can increase your productivity while reducing your negative environmental footprint

Learn more about TAP services and impacts on the ISTC web site. If you are interested in scheduling a site visit in the future, when travel restrictions have been lifted, fill out our form to request a site visit.  Questions can also be directed to istc-info@illinois.edu, to receive immediate assistance.

Subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter on sustainability for food and beverage manufacturers at https://groups.webservices.illinois.edu/subscribe/115948.

You can also keep up to date on TAP projects and services, case studies, and guidance by subscribing to the ISTC blog (look for the “subscribe” box for email input on the main blog page) or exploring the blog’s Technical Assistance category. Our web site also provides a list of fact sheets, case studies and other publications which may provide inspiration for your efforts. In the coming months, TAP will also be developing a new web site to more fully describe recent projects, successes, and services; this will be linked to directly from the main ISTC web site. Be on the lookout for it!

Finally, on April 9th, at 12 PM Central, we invite you to join us for a webinar, Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) Festival Footprint: Going Zero Waste. Learn more and register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4557515682919003659. If it inspires you to pursue zero waste at your facility or in your community, we’d love to discuss opportunities and ideas with you! Reach out to our zero waste team at istc-zerowaste@illinois.edu.  If you want to receive notifications of future webinars from ISTC, you can sign up at https://groups.webservices.illinois.edu/subscribe/53516.

Stay safe and know that we are here to support your organization’s sustainability efforts during this difficult time.

Check out the Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide

The Pollution Prevention (P2) 101 LibGuide is designed to help P2 technical assistance providers find information quickly and efficiently. It’s targeted particularly at those new to the P2 field.

Start your journey with the Essential Information section, which has links to materials for training staff new to the P2 field. It includes links to foundational documents, networking sources, videos, and webinar series. Many of the materials included in this section were recommended by experienced P2 practitioners.

Continue on to the Technology Diffusion and P2 section, which discusses technology diffusion and how it relates to P2 technical assistance. It also includes links to essential reading and case studies of how technical assistance programs have used these principles to effectively provide sustainability assistance to companies.

The sector and subject pages are another useful feature. Some of the sectors covered include:

It also includes links to case studies; software tools and databases; compliance assistance; news and current awareness; statistics and data sets; and patents, methods, and standards, as well as advice on effectively locating P2 information.

The guide was developed and is maintained by Laura Barnes, ISTC’s Sustainability Information Curator.

Illinois EPA Announces Spring 2019 Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events

Illinois EPA has announced scheduled household hazardous waste collections for Spring 2019. Illinois EPA holds household hazardous waste collections  to encourage residents to safely dispose of unused or leftover toxic products commonly found in homes.

Ten collection sites have been confirmed for the spring. IEPA is finalizing an  additional four locations. Details for the additional collections will be announced when they become available.

DATE LOCATION ADDRESS COSPONSOR(s)
March 23, 2019
(COMPLETED)
Gibson City
Ford County
115 South Sangamon Avenue
Gibson City, Illinois
Ford County Soil and Water Conservation District
April 13, 2019 Brookfield
Cook County
Brookfield Zoo, North parking lot
8400 West 31st Street
Brookfield, Illinois
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago;
Brookfield Zoo
April 13, 2019 Griggsville
Pike County
Western Illinois Fairgrounds
516 South Oak Street
Griggsville, Illinois
Pike County Economic Development Corporation
April 27, 2019 Effingham
Effingham County
Village Square Mall parking lot
South Banker
Effingham, Illinois
City of Effingham, Emergency Management Agency
May 4, 2019 Havana
Mason County
Neiman Foods
parking lot
504 South Promenade Street
Havana, Illinois 62644
University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit
May 18, 2019 East Moline
Rock Island County
Rock Island County Fairgrounds
4200 Archer Drive
East Moline, Illinois 61244
Rock Island County Waste Management Agency
May 18, 2019 Sparta
Randolph County
World Shooting and Recreation Complex
1 Main Event Lane
Sparta, Illinois 62286
Randolph County
June 1, 2019 Cobden
Union County
Cobden Community Park
Locust Street
Cobden, Illinois 62286
Village of Cobden
June 8, 2019 Sycamore
DeKalb County
TBD DeKalb County Farm Bureau
June 15, 2019 Roanoke
Woodford County
Woodford County Highway Dept.
301 South Main Street
Roanoke, Illinois 61561
Woodford County Health Department
June 29, 2019 Morrison
Whiteside County
Whiteside County Highway Dept.
18819 Lincoln Road
Morrison, Illinois 61270
Whiteside County
TBD East Dundee
Kane County
TBD Lebanon
St. Clair County
TBD Harrisburg
Saline County

 

Note:  One-day collections are open to all Illinois residents and operate from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the above scheduled Saturdays.

What items can I bring for disposal?

Items that will be accepted include chemical cleaners, oil-based paints, thinners, antifreeze, motor oil, gasoline, kerosene, weed killers, insecticides and pesticides, old or outdated medication, and similar hazardous household products. Fluorescent and other high-intensity discharge lamps may also be brought to the collections.

Items not accepted include latex paint, explosives, propane tanks, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, agricultural chemicals and business wastes.

IEPA has a complete list of household hazardous wastes that are and are not accepted at http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/waste-management/waste-disposal/household-hazardous-waste/acceptable-wastes/index.

Are there year-round collection facilities?

The following long-term collection facilities are available for disposal of household hazardous waste throughout the year:

For questions concerning the Illinois EPA’s one-day or long-term collections, please contact the Waste Reduction Unit of the Agency at 217-524-3300.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Schedules are also available on the Illinois EPA website at https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/waste-disposal/household-hazardous-waste/Pages/collections.aspx.

How do I schedule a collection event in my community?

If your community wants to host a collection event, download an application or apply online.

IEPA accepts applications each fiscal year, keeps them active indefinitely, and DOES NOT CHOOSE on a first come, first serve basis.

IEPA categorizes applications into potential large, medium or small events then ranks them by a point system based on certain criteria. They choose events each spring and fall by using the ranking system. They determine the number of collections based on available funding.

For more information, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/waste-disposal/household-hazardous-waste/Pages/default.aspx.

Laura Barnes appointed to National Pollution Prevention Roundtable Board of Directors

Laura L. Barnes, ISTC’s Sustainability Information Curator, has been appointed to the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable‘s Board of Directors to fill the Region 5 seat, which represents programs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) is a national forum that promotes the development, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to avoid, eliminate, or reduce waste generated to air, land, and water.

Ms. Barnes will serve on NPPR’s web site team and the planning committee for the Roundtable’s upcoming Education Forum, as well as assist with the organization’s strategic communications.

PRI Researchers Gather in Australia for Top GHG Control Conference

Nine Prairie Research Institute (PRI) carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) researchers traveled to Melbourne, Australia in October for the Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference 14, the field’s leading biennial scientific gathering, sponsored by the 30-nation Energy Technology Network.

gas separation test facility for CO2 capture
The $100 million CO2CRC gas separation test facility in Otway, Australia is developing new membrane materials for use in capturing purified carbon dioxide at a high- concentration natural gas well. This apparatus demonstrates the ability to test lab scale, flat membrane sheets and single fibers of hollow fiber membranes.

While at the conference, they visited Australia’s major CCS center, the Otway National Research Center. Otway’s CO2CRC gas separation test facility is developing membranes and techniques for CO2 storage, according to ISTC Director Kevin OBrien.

OBrien added that Dr. Abdul Qader, CO2CRC’s facilities manager, explained new strategies for separating CO2 from methane. “This would be a major driver for the natural gas industry in the Asia-Pacific region,” OBrien explained.

“They also have the ability to test new sorbents as part of their research into pressure swing absorption,” he said.

PRI is also a major player in technology development for CCUS. At ISTC, research focuses on the development of a large-scale U.S. carbon capture pilot at a working coal-fired power plant. Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) researchers have developed expertise in sequestration of carbon dioxide in deep rock formations.

Because global demand for fossil fuels is not likely to decline soon, technologies must be developed to reduce carbon emissions by capturing, storing, and finding beneficial ways to use the waste gas, OBrien said. Capture requires a lot of energy and work at PRI and CO2CRC both search for better capture efficiency to lower its cost.

Work is underway worldwide to perfect a wide variety approaches. Successful commercialization of any of these technologies could be a game changer for climate change efforts because most of the world’s economies will continue using coal and other fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, said OBrien.

team of researchers at Australia conference
PRI CCUS researchers (left to right) Chris Korose, Randy Locke, Kevin OBrien, Sallie Greenberg, Scott Frailey, Vinod Patel, Nick Malkewicz (of Projeo Corporation), and Lance Schideman. Steve Whittaker and Keri Canaday (not pictured) also attended meeting.

#P2Week Day 2: Reducing Your Impact Through Repair

This post was written by Joy Scrogum and originally published on the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) BlogFor more information on Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, see https://www.epa.gov/p2week

Those of us in the Great Lakes region (and the rest of the US and Canada) live in a so-called “throw-away society” in which consumerism is rampant, and goods are not often designed or produced with durability in mind. In fact, in recent years, more and more goods are designed to be explicitly or implicitly disposable. Even complex products, such as consumer electronics, are treated as if they are meant to be ephemeral. The classic example is the smartphone. These devices are astounding feats of scientific innovation and engineering. For perspective, consider ZME Science’s article from September 2017: Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969. Despite their complexity, and the fact that you, and probably everyone you know, barely scratch the surface in terms of using these devices to their full potential, we are constantly bombarded with cues to upgrade to the latest model. And new models seem to be released ever more frequently, always being touted as somehow greatly more advanced than their predecessors. A simpler example is clothing–when was the last time you sewed up or patched a hole in a shirt or pair of pants? Something that once would have been done by most people as a matter of course might now be deemed peculiar. A modern member of our culture might wonder why one would bother to patch a pair of pants when a new pair could be obtained so cheaply.

Our “take-make-dispose” model can also be called a  linear economy, and the message you receive in such a system is clear: if you have something that becomes damaged or has minor performance issues, you should just replace it. In fact, even if what you have is working well, the time will quickly come when you should just replace the old with the new. Replace, rinse, and repeat. A linear economy is one in which natural resources are extracted and used to create goods which will entirely, or partially, inevitably end up in landfills or incinerators. Some materials may be recovered and recycled, but over time these materials degrade in quality and are used for increasingly lower grade purposes, so that ultimately they will become wasteof little or no further use.

Of course, in order to replace whatever is being disposed of, new goods are required. And those new goods require as much or more resources as the ones that went before them–new minerals and other raw materials must be extracted. Extraction processes can have negative environmental and social impacts (e.g. pollution, habitat destruction, human rights issues related to labor practices, health issues related to exposure to chemicals or physical risks, etc.). Materials are transported to factories (requiring the use of energy in the form of fuel) where they are transformed into new products, again potentially with new human exposures to toxins or other adverse conditions, and potential new emissions of toxins or other substances of concern. In the case of products such as electronics, sometimes components are manufactured in places distant from each other and must be further transported to be brought together in yet another factory to create a complete device. And the finished product is in turn transported across the globe to reach consumers, resulting in more expenditure of energy, more emissions. By the time most products reach the consumer, a great deal of natural and human resources have been invested in them, and however positively the product itself may impact a human life or the broader ecosystem, the number of potential negative impacts all along the supply chain have stacked up. Clearly, any tendency to treat products as disposable, purposefully or incidentally, exacerbates those negative impacts by requiring the manufacture of more products, more quickly than might otherwise have been the case, as long as the demand for product does not diminish.

The tragedy of this linear cycle of use and disposal has lead to the advocacy for a circular economy–one in which extraction of resources is minimized and products and services are designed in such a way as to maximize the flow of materials through resource loops as close to perpetually as physically possible. In such a system, what might have once been considered “waste” continues to be valued in some form or another. A circular economy is built upon design for durability, reuse, and the ability to keep products in service for as long as possible, followed by the ability to effectively reclaim, reuse and recycle materials.

A comparison of linear and circular economies. From the New Zealand Ministry for Environment, https://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/circular-economy.

So while the industrial designers of tomorrow will hopefully create products that are in line with the more circular worldview, what can you as a consumer do today to foster a circular economy? Of course you can reduce your use of materials, but practically, you will still need to use some products in order to support yourself, your family, and your lifestyle. You can reuse materials for something other than their original purpose, and sell or donate unwanted functional items so that someone else may use them. Similarly you can purchase items that have been previously used by someone else. And recycling of materials after the end of their original purpose allows for at least some extension of their value. But there is another “r,” which in some ways can be seen as a specialized form of reuse, that is becoming more popular–repair. If you own something with minor damage or performance issues, you can choose to repair it rather than replace itAccording to WRAP, a UK organization dedicated to resource efficiency and the circular economy,  “Worth over £200m in gross revenue each year, 23% of the 348,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collected at household waste and recycling centres could be re-used with minor repairs.” The US company iFixit reports similar statistics, and further states that for every 1000 tons of electronics, landfilling creates less than one job, recycling creates 15 jobs, and repair creates 200 jobs.

There are many barriers to repair, including costs (real or perceived), knowledge, confidence in those performing the repair (one’s self or someone else), and access to tools, instruction manuals and repair code meanings which tell technicians exactly what the problem is so they can address it. Manufacturers of a variety of products, particular those with electronic components (everything from automobiles to cell phones to tractors) have come under pressure in recent years over the attempt to monopolize access to parts, tools, and necessary information for performing repairs, leading to what is called the Right to Repair movement. Currently, 18 US states, including Illinois, Minnesota,  and New York in the Great Lakes region, have introduced “fair repair” bills which would require manufacturers of various products to make those tools, parts, and pieces of information accessible to consumer and third-party repair shops. You can read more about the history of the right to repair movement and right to repair legislation on the Repair Association web site.

In an increasing number of communities around the world, citizens are coming together to share their knowledge, tools, and problem-solving skills to help each other repair every day items for free. I’m writing this on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and here are some examples of local projects that can help you repair the items you own:

  • Illini Gadget Garage. This one’s my favorite, but I’m admittedly biased, since I helped launch this project and coordinated it for the past few years. The IGG is a collaborative repair center for personally-owned electronic devices and small appliances. “Collaborative repair” means that project staff and volunteers don’t repair your device for you; rather they work with you to troubleshoot and repair your device. Assistance is free; consumers are responsible for purchasing their own parts if needed, though staff can help determine what parts might be necessary. In addition to working with consumers by appointment at their campus workshop, the IGG crew conduct “pop-up” repair clinics in various public spaces around the Champaign-Urbana community and across campus. Consumers not only benefit from the “do-it-together” approach, they also get access to specialized tools (e.g. soldering irons, pentalobe screwdrivers, heat guns, etc.) that enable device repair, which many folks wouldn’t have in their tool box at home. Though successful repair obviously can’t be guaranteed, project staff say that if it has a plug or electrical component, and you can carry into the shop (or pop-up), they’ll help you try to figure out and fix the problem.
  • The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign. Including both a downtown Urbana shop and a Campus Bike Center, this project provides tools and space for bicyclists to share knowledge and repair bicycles. This project sells refurbished bikes, and individuals who are willing to work on fixing up a donated bike (with assistance) can eventually purchase a bike at a discount. See https://thebikeproject.org/get-involved/join-the-bike-project/ for membership fees; an equity membership based on volunteer hours is available.

Wherever you live, you can watch for repair-related courses from local community colleges and park districts, and check to see if your local library operates a tool library, or at least lends some tools (e.g. you can check out a sewing machine and accessories from the Urbana Free Library). Many libraries also provide access to online research tools that can assist with auto and home repairs or more (e.g. see https://champaign.org/library-resources/research-learning).

Interested in starting your own repair-oriented project? Check out these additional examples and resources:

Learn more about the circular economy on the WRAP web site, or the Ellen MacArthur Foundation web site.

 

 

New Legislative Request Regarding Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Illinois Wastewater Effluent

The Illinois governor recently signed House Bill IL-HB5741 that amends the University of Illinois Scientific Surveys Act. The new section 21 asks the Prairie Research Institute (PRI), which was established under the Scientific Surveys Act in 2008, to conduct a scientific literature review of chemicals identified in wastewater treatment plant effluents that are recognized as contaminants of emerging concern. It also requests that PRI compile a listing of the specific actions recommended by various state and federal agencies to address the environmental or public health concerns associated with the chemicals. PRI will provide its impartial report to the General Assembly by June 30, 2020.

Because of its long history of pollution prevention expertise, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, will take the lead on this new effort. ISTC researchers have studied a variety of inorganic and organic environmental contaminants as well as developed methods for waste and pollution prevention. Recently much of their water quality research and public engagement activities have focused on chemicals of emerging concern in wastewater, surface water, and groundwater. ISTC staff members Nancy Holm, Laura Barnes, and Elizabeth Meschewski will be compiling the report.

Although the law requests a literature review of contaminants of emerging concern associated with wastewater treatment plant effluent, these contaminants also enter the environment from other sources. These include non-point sources, such as agricultural fields, and other point sources, such as large animal feeding operations, septic systems, and industrial operations.

#BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day

Today is an important “holiday” of sorts for those of us who are sustainability professionals. On this day in 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm Sweden, began (June 5-16, 1972). The purpose of that conference was to discuss human interactions with the environment, as well as encouraging governments and international organizations to take action related to environmental issues and providing guidelines for such action. This was the UN’s first major conference on international environmental issues, and it culminated in what’s commonly called the “Stockholm Declaration”—the first document in international environmental law to recognize the right to a healthy environment. Two years later, in 1974, the first World Environment Day was held on June 5 with the theme of “Only One Earth.” Since then, World Environment Day has been celebrated annually on June 5th. Each year has a theme around which activities center, and beginning in the late 1980s, the main celebrations began to rotate to different cities around the globe. Learn more about the UN Conference on the Human Environment at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/milestones/humanenvironment and the history of World Environment Day at http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/about/world-environment-day-driving-five-decades-environmental-action.

This year’s World Environment Day theme, chosen by the host nation, India, (New Delhi is the host city) is “beating plastic pollution,” with the tagline “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.” According to the World Environment Day web site: “While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use. Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment. Every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates. Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies. What harm does that cause? Scientists still aren’t sure, but plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.”

To combat the environmental and human health issues associated with the global addiction to single use plastics, the UN Environment Programme is encouraging people to join the global game of #BeatPlasticPollution tag. Here’s how to play:

  1. Choose which type of single-use plastic you’re ready to give up.
  2. Take a selfie (photo or video) showing yourself with the reusable alternative that you’re ready to embrace.
  3. Share your selfie on social media and “tag” three friends, businesses or high-profile people to challenge them to do the same within 24 hours. Be sure to use the #BeatPlasticPollution hashtag and mention @UNEnvironment.

So what single use plastic item will you pledge to give up today—plastic straws, disposable plastic shopping bags, disposable coffee pods, plastic water bottles, or something else? For inspiration, see http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/get-involved/join-global-game-beatplasticpollution-tag.

Image of 2018 World Environment Day poster promoting #BeatPlasticPollution Tag, outlining the steps for the global game listed in this blog post.

This post was written by Joy Scrogum, ISTC Sustainability Specialist, for the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) Blog.

PFASs: Complex Chemicals that Could Cause Catastrophic Contamination

WRITTEN BY: Margaret Golden, ISTC staff

When we think of chemicals that could be on our food, we usually think of the pesticides that are used to eliminate pests. We rarely think of the cookware that we use to prepare it. Maybe we should start.

One of the most common ways that people come in contact with chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) is through nonstick cookware. PFASs are a collection of man-made chemical compounds that include PFOA, PFOS, and newer GenX chemicals. They were created in the mid-twentieth century and have been used in manufacturing of various products ever since. They’re popular because they don’t degrade and can make products stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick. Because of their popularity, they have managed to make their way into water systems and living organisms through leaching and contamination. In addition to cookware, you can find PFASs in a variety of food packaging, household products, clothing items, fire-fighting foams, industrial waste, and drinking water. They also accumulate in the tissue of living organisms, including humans.

The prevalence of PFASs in the environment is a concern because they have been proven to harm both the environment and human health. PFASs are stable molecules, which make them resistant to most treatment methods. This resistance to breakdown means they stay in any living organisms that they come in contact with and can accumulate in the body over time. Additional research has shown that these chemicals can lead to a wide range of adverse health effects, which include immune system deficiencies, low infant birth weights, cancer, thyroid hormone distribution, developmental and liver problems, and potentially many more. Water contamination specifically is becoming a large concern. Drinking water in two Detroit suburbs has tested positive for PFAS contamination. PFASs also have been detected in several other of Michigan’s drinking water sources such as waterways and lakes. It is clear that PFAS are increasingly becoming more of a problem for our health and the environment.

Thanks to the PFOA Stewardship program, most PFASs production has been phased out in the United States. However, people can still come in contact with them through imported goods because they are not yet banned internationally. In addition, companies in the U.S. are still producing next generation PFASs, called GenX. These compounds are found in firefighting foams and food packaging. Because of that, further research on these chemicals is being done all over the country and world.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has teamed up with researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the University of California at Riverside to combat this issue and work toward a solution. Researchers from each university are currently investigating the effects of cobalt (Co)-catalyzed defluorination to degrade PFASs. ISTC is working to connect the PFAS research community and increase public awareness through seminars and conferences surrounding research findings.

The first conference will take place in the beginning of June. ISTC will be collaborating with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to hold the 2018 Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference. Be sure to mark your calendars and register online if you’re interested. One speaker to specifically look forward to is Rainer Lohmann, a professor of Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island, who will be doing a keynote presentation on PFASs. With this conference and series of seminars, ISTC hopes to help eliminate the use of PFASs and help to find more sustainable replacements.