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Aclarity Makes PFAS a Problem of The Past

PFAS, AKA per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a silent epidemic.

For nearly a century, manufacturers have discharged PFAS in our waterways and landfills unchecked, causing it to rapidly accumulate in water, on soil, and in blood. These persistent and harmful “forever chemicals”, which we also encounter in everyday products from carpets to cosmetics to non-stick pans, pose well-documented risks to human well-being. Among the many health consequences, PFAS are known to contribute to various types of cancer, developmental delays in children, and decreased fertility. In the US alone, 98% of the population has PFAS in their blood. 

What makes PFAS unique – and valuable to companies – is its chemical composition, rendering it resistant to oil and water. It’s proven so durable that PFAS is nearly impossible to break down, the best we have been able to do is capture and incinerate PFAS, which still results in hazardous byproducts.

Enter Julie Bliss Mullen and her game-changing startup, Aclarity
Aclarity staff at work

Julie has long been passionate about the connection between the environment and public health. As an environmental studies and engineering major in college, Julie spent a summer in Guatemala with Engineers Without Borders where she saw firsthand the ill effects of contaminated drinking water on a community. Her interest in water treatment took her to the Drinking Water Unit at the EPA for two years in Boston before pursuing a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering.

During her Ph.D. research, Julie worked using electrochemical oxidation – essentially passing an electric current through water. With some enhancements on the traditional technology, Julie found she could do more than your average electrochemical oxidation system could do. Julie’s technology could destroy contaminants, like PFAS, without generating any harmful byproducts. Building on the potential of the technology she prototyped, Julie founded Aclarity, becoming the CEO of the world’s first startup that isn’t just capturing PFAS, but eliminating it from the environment for good.

Aclarity and their participation in the Imagine H2O Urban Water Challenge

Five years after founding Aclarity, Julie was selected as the winner of Imagine H2O’s 2022 Urban Water Challenge, supported by 11th Hour Racing and Oceankind. Through the Urban Water Challenge, Aclarity received $100k in non-dilutive funding to build a mobile pilot trailer with a skid-mounted production ready reactor to stop PFAS at its source. The modular nature of the system allows for Aclarity to scale up and meet necessary throughput in both a cost effective and energy efficient manner. 

Following the completion of the mobile system, it was deployed to treat landfill leachate for safe discharge in Michigan, enabling the first large-scale mobile deployment of Aclarity’s technology.  Not only did it meet its operational goals, but also it surpassed its PFAS destruction performance goals. One of the mobile trailer’s first missions was a four week onsite pilot with Xylem. Third party validation confirmed the continuous destruction of up to 99% of PFOS in landfill leachate, bringing levels to below detection limits.

Since completing the pilot in Michigan, Aclarity has embarked on several mobile deployments with customers across the United States – successfully repeating its extraordinary results. The company is also working with entities in the European Union to address the PFAS problem in Europe. 

Aclarity, the pioneers of PFAS destruction, leads the way as regulators play catch up

Since winning the 2022 Urban Water Challenge, new federal and state regulation around PFAS is providing a tailwind to Aclarity’s work. More than 6 states had PFAS regulation go into effect in 2023, including a first-in-the-nation PFAS ban in Maine, bans on use in personal care and food packaging, and new labeling requirements. Additionally, the US EPA lowered its safe threshold levels for PFAS in drinking water and is exploring new effluent limitation guidelines and pretreatment standards for landfill leachate to combat PFAS contamination. 

Armed with incredible results from their mobile deployments and regulatory tailwinds, Aclarity has signed an MOU with De Nora and built its partnership with Xylem. Aclarity is looking to next develop one of the first ever commercial-scale permanent installations of PFAS destruction technology.

At Imagine H2O, we can’t wait to watch (and support) their journey!

Interested in the Urban Water Challenge?