2020 SERDP Project of the Year Award for Environmental Restoration

At Department of Defense (DoD) facilities, novel remediation technologies are needed to address groundwater impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The DoD is increasingly concerned with comingled PFAS and hydrocarbon and/or chlorinated solvent plumes, as mixed contaminant systems will require specific treatment strategies. 

Dr. Christopher Higgins from Colorado School of Mines and his team led a SERDP-funded project that established a more complete and coherent foundation on the role of source zones and low permeability materials on PFAS release. These data provide insight into the fundamental processes controlling fate and transport of PFAS in groundwater at aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF)-impacted sites.

The study results demonstrated that the release of PFAS from source zone soils varies according to PFAS, with respect to chain length, head group, and soil characteristics. Dr. Higgins and his team also demonstrated the impacts of microbial cultures from highly PFAS-impacted soils that are degrading benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) on polyfluorinated substance transformation. ​Such findings will facilitate the development and improve the application of synergistic remediation technologies to mixed contaminant plumes and source zones at DoD sites. 

For these significant contributions, Dr. Higgins and his team received the 2020 ESTCP Project of the Year Award for Environmental Restoration for their project titled Key Fate and Transport Processes Impacting the Mass Discharge, Attenuation, and Treatment of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Comingled Chlorinated Solvents or Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

Project Team:

  • Christopher P. Higgins – Colorado School of Mines
  • Jennifer A. Field – Oregon State University​
  • Charles E. Schaefer – CDM Smith​
  • Lisa Alvarez-Cohen – University of California, Berkeley