Biotech firm electrocutes soil so that bacteria can eat ‘forever chemicals’

A biotech firm is trialling the removal of PFAS “forever chemicals” from soil at a test site in Wisconsin by injecting chemical-eating bacteria and electrocuting the ground.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a class of thousands of different synthetic chemicals that contain carbon and fluorine atoms linked by strong bonds. The chemicals – which repel grease and water – have been in widespread use since the 1940s in everything from firefighting foam at airports to dental floss.

But the same qualities that make PFAS useful stop the chemicals from degrading, so many of them are persistent environmental contaminants. They are often called forever chemicals, and have been found in drinking water and in people’s blood all over the world.

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Soil laced with contaminating chemicals,
like at this site in Utah, can require significant clean-up efforts
Eric R. Hinson/Getty Images