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Promising signs in PFAS remediation research


Hemp seed could be the key to remediating PFAS contaminated soil, with University of Newcastle researchers obtaining promising results from early research.

The study has received $4.7 million from the 2019-20 Federal Budget to further investigations led by Dr Brett Turner and Laureate Professor Scott Sloan, from the university’s Priority Research Centre for Geotechnical Science and Engineering.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have contaminated groundwater and soil in several sites around Australia, including near the Williamtown RAAF base.
The manmade chemicals have been used in firefighting foams, insecticides and electronics, however are considered to be almost non-degradable so many conventional treatments for PFAS remediation are not effective.

Kickstarted by a $600,000 state government grant, early research has found that the high protein content of hemp assists in the breakdown of PFAS chemicals.

“We found that hemp has a remarkable affinity for PFAS chemicals in groundwater,” Dr Turner said.

“So, we expect that this can be applied to remediate contaminated soil – an area where currently there are no options.”

The next stage of the research will look to create a more cost-effective method of removing the chemical compounds from soil, groundwater and surface waters in a natural way.

The University of Newcastle has contributed an additional $1.5 million of funding.

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