One of the plants scrubbing PFAS from groundwater near the defence base at Oakey in Queensland has won the 2019 Australian Technology Company of the Year award.
OPEC Systems uses a different treatment to that being used for Katherine's drinking water and out at the Tindal RAAF Base.
"While we have been working on this technology for several years, it's an interesting alignment that we were recognised for our innovation in PFAS remediation on the same day that the largest class action in Australia's history for PFAS contamination was announced," managing director, Pete Murphy, said.
"PFAS contamination is a problem worldwide, but Australia has emerged as a leader in this space, and the rest of the world is looking on with interest," he said.
"SAFF is the only physical separation process for PFAS remediation which has proven successful on a commercial scale anywhere in the world," he said.
"Our objective has always been to create a simple, replicable and low-cost solution that produces a miniscule amount of waste with zero environmental harm. SAFF leverages the natural physiochemistry of PFAS molecules to bond to the surface of air bubbles and is an efficient, sustainable and rapid system in comparison to other technologies."
The heart of SAFF technology is its use of fine air bubbles to collect and remove PFAS.
Using air, the priority PFAS compounds are floated to the surface and 'foamed' out, with water purified to below drinking water guidelines and target PFAS compounds removed to below detectable limits. The modular and scalable properties of SAFF mean that it can be easily transported and upsized for large volume remediation.
OPEC's PFAS remediation technology was one of only three selected from hundreds of applicants to construct a full-scale water treatment plant at Army Aviation Centre, Oakey.
This site became operational in April 2019 and is capable of processing over 250,000 litres of PFAS impacted groundwater daily.
The two plants at Tindal and both the emergency plant in Katherine and the new one about to be installed use an American invention, a sticky resin, to clean PFAS.
"While awards of this nature are enormously gratifying, they also acknowledge the commitment of our entire team. We've had to back ourselves through some lean times and retain faith in the concept. Aside from the obvious commercial reasons, we've stuck at it as we recognise the extent of global PFAS contamination, and that our efforts offer real hope for communities living near PFAS plumes," Mr Murphy said.
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