Learning about PFAS from Sweden
10 May 2023
Even a consortium of 14 partners is not enough to cover the vast field of the unknown on the topic of micropollutants, so naturally, extensive cooperation is needed to ensure an in-depth learning process covering the science and practice on this complex challenge. Hence, from the very start EMPEREST has been building a cooperation ecosystem with other relevant international projects to reach out for more expertise and collaboration, filling the existing gaps without repeating the work already done in the region.
In May, this cooperation was realised in a face-to-face meeting with ZeroPFAS II project (Minimization and reduction of PFAS input to the Baltic Sea), funded by the Swedish Institute (duration: October 2022 – February 2024). ZeroPFAS II aims to strengthen the current Baltic Sea PFAS networks between universities, research institutions, municipalities and water agencies, and increase the public and authorities’ knowledge on PFAS.
Three days of the meeting included a seminar with Baltic Sea PFAS network, with local experts from different fields highlighting the complexity of the PFAS behaviour and its monitoring. Participants also visited the pilot plant developed in Uppsala WWTP. This wastewater treatment plant actively works on eliminating micropollutants and is currently testing granulated activated carbon (GAC) filters and anion exchange (AIX) to investigate various treatment approaches and operational strategies. This visit was of particular interest for EMPEREST partners, as in our project the mobile pilot plants will apply a similar treatment scheme, to collect PFAS treatment data from different locations in the Baltic Sea Region, and support WWTP facilities with preparing roadmaps for future investments.
On the last day, the event held a workshop on the future of PFAS work and further international cooperation, featuring a panel discussion with stakeholders from EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, Swedish Institute, Centrum Balticum, Swedish Chemicals Agency, and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Panellists highlighted the need for cross-sectoral knowledge exchange, the crucial role of communications, and the importance of working together on solving challenges.
The panel also touched upon identifying the main actors for PFAS challenge. Problem-owners of this are municipalities or regions, but it is regional authorities who designs the guidelines, so it’s vital to establish a working dialogue with them.
“Problem-owners and authorities should meet to see the same problems. It’s important to communicate,” pointed out Bert-Ove Lund from the Swedish Chemicals Agency.
Bert-Ove Lund suggested using the existing PFAS network as a platform for sharing experiences. EMPEREST here also comes along, as several project partners have already been part of this network for a long time, while the project itself focuses a part of its activities on the science-policy dialogue enabled through HELCOM.
One more important takeaway from the discussion came as a reflection of the meeting: more collaboration between EU projects is needed. Many projects today are working on the elimination of micropollutants, focusing on different substances or different areas of the environment, be it up- or downstream measures.
Holistic approach is key, and joint work with projects like ZeroPFAS II allows us to initiate a collaboration and multiplication work in the EMPEREST project. From the practical side, this event was a great opportunity to learn directly from Swedish experts in the field and network with them, and to establish connections for the future cooperation.