Early results show that using bioremediation to break down “forever chemicals” is working at an airport around Madison, Wisconsin. At the Dane County Regional Airport, scientists are introducing microbes into the groundwater to reduce the presence of PFAS in the water. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals that break down very slowly, if at all, in the natural environment. They have been used in food-packaging, cleaning products, paints, fire-fighting foams implemented at airports, and stain and water resistant fabrics, carpeting, and clothing. Studies have correlated adverse health effects to the presence of PFAS in groundwater and soil.

Bioremediation is the process of using living organisms such as fungi and plants and microorganisms such as bacteria to break down pollutants in the environment. Typically, when addressing groundwater remediation, microorganisms are introduced into the water source and provided nutrients. With the added nutrients, scientists are able to stimulate the growth rate of the bacteria and increase their metabolisms to eat the contaminant faster. The bacteria is able to either remove the contaminant completely or break it down into harmless inorganic constituents. One of the most prevalent uses of bioremediation is in the cleanup of oil spills, and was employed extensively for the Exxon Valdez and Deep Water Horizon spills.

Bioremediation is significantly cheaper than alternative methods of remediation such as incineration, solidification, oxidation or land filling. By relying on naturally occurring microorganisms, plants and fungi, the underlying remediation processes are both continuous and renewable. Recent successes with PFAS bioremediation in situ have resulted in cleaning up the environment without the need to move huge amounts of water or soil for treatment. Due to the natural metabolic action of bioremediation, it may take longer than other methods of remediation. However, data from the Dane County Regional Airport revealed a 97% reduction of PFAS in the first nine months.

At MG+M, we are leaders in the area of PFAS litigation and risk management. Our lawyers are trained in bioremediation and experienced at its implementation, boasting graduate level coursework in the field and having worked extensively with experts in bioremediation, including in the remediation of the largest oil spill in history. With our deep understanding of bioremediation opportunities and processes, our attorneys are better able to guide you through the challenges of PFAS risk, litigation, regulation and remediation.