Tim Mulrooney, William Blair’s group head of global services, provides insight into the recent EPA rulings on PFAS compounds, exploring their impact on public water utilities and the broader implications for industries nationwide. He also discusses the expected surge in demand for PFAS advisory, testing, and remediation services, and examines the technologies poised to address the issue.

Podcast Transcript

Chris: [00:00:20]
This William Blair Thinking podcast episode was recorded on June 3, 2024.

Welcome back everybody. On today's episode of William Blair Thinking Presents, we welcome back Tim Mulrooney. He's the group head of the global services sector and an equity research analyst for our energy and sustainability sector. Tim, a real pleasure to have you back. The last one we did on residential services was a lot of fun.

Tim: [00:00:45]
Good to be back, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Chris: [00:00:47]
So today we're shifting the focus a bit. No longer doing the residential services area. Instead, we're doing something that I know you're very passionate about. This is a class of manmade chemicals known as PFAS. Or as they're also known, forever chemicals. And I'm sure those listening have seen plenty of news around this, especially lately.

They’re called forever chemicals because they do not usually break down naturally in the environment. And Tim, I'll have you jump in in a second to talk about that. And then a few other things. But, as background, everyone, Tim has been following the PFAS issues for a little while now. He published a white paper on the subject as far back as February of 2023.

And then he stayed close to the evolving regulations by the EPA, who, of course, officially designated PFAS molecules as hazardous substances. This was a couple months ago.

Tim believes the ruling is a major catalyst that will stimulate increased demand for PFAS services and solutions for years to come. So, with that, Tim, I think it would be very helpful if you briefly talked about what PFAS are first. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on it, but I would definitely give a little background there. And then from there, a bit about the recent EPA rulings that are aimed at getting them out of our environment.

Tim: [00:01:58]
Yeah. Happy to do that. So last time I was on, we were talking about residential services companies. I'm the services guy here at William Blair. So, we cover commercial services, you know, B2B residential services, so on, you know, bringing services into the home. And then we also cover group of companies called Sustainability Services. The underlying link there being that, you know, we cover services companies, they don't sell products, they just provide services.

And, the sustainability services, there's been this, increasing theme around water quality, emerging contaminants. You could think about biopharmaceuticals and water, plastics, and water, and another one that's gaining a lot of traction here is PFAS. When Michael Regan took over as the head of the EPA for the Biden administration a few years ago, he identified this as his number one issue, or one of his top issues, to get addressed.

And so, they laid out this roadmap, and we followed it closely because they were doing all of the things that you'd expect the EPA to do if they were in fact, going to implement a new ruling. And so, we started following it closely, I'd say four or five years ago. Again, a couple of companies that we cover also offer solutions in the space. So, this became an issue of, growing importance, I would say, over the last several years. So, we published a white paper on it last year, kind of laying out what is the issue, what's the size and scope or could be the size and scope of the issue and a lot of the evolving regulations culminating in, a couple of big regulations in April that we can dive into.

But just stepping back here what is PFAS. PFAS is a series of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured over the last 60, 70 years. They're super handy chemicals. They are the reason that your nonstick pans are nonstick, that your rain proof gear is waterproof, that your Gore-Tex works. It's in dental floss. It's in the underside of the McDonald's wrapper. Keeps the cheese from sticking.

Chris: [00:04:00]
I mean, this stuff's in everything, right? All these really interesting daily use items?

Tim: [00:04:07]
That's right. Yep. And they're all over the place. But the issue is, is that when they're disposed of, they enter our soil and our ultimately our groundwater. And so basically what we've figured out over the last several decades is it's these chemicals are much more prolific than you might think. They are in our water streams. They're in our aquifers, and they're even in our own bodies. And there's been a mounting, pile of evidence to suggest that these forever chemicals are linked to negative health outcomes. And the EPA lays out a bunch of these academic papers that have shown a link to the negative health outcomes, everything from, different types of cancers to, type two diabetes, liver issues, kidney issues.

And there's a debate about the link between the two. There isn't really a debate about the idea that when there is a heavy concentration of these chemicals in those areas, you can see elevated cancer rates. You can see, the animals getting sick. There's a lot of, evidence when there's high contamination, there's some debate around, you know, when there's lower levels of contamination, how this impacts different organic organisms.

But I think, generally speaking, there's an agreement that these things can be harmful. And the reason is they don't break down naturally in the environment. Like you said, they also don't break down naturally in our bodies. So, they gum up the systems. That's because there's this really strong bond between the carbon and the fluorine atom within the molecule itself.

And it's one of the strongest known bonds in nature. And the same reason that it's such a hassle to manage and why it doesn't break down, is the same reason why it's so useful in all these products. And so, the EPA, what they ended up doing is they came out with two rulings in April. One is MCL, the other one is CERCLA.

The MCL stands for maximum contamination limits. So, this is how much PFAS should be allowed in the water stream and in our drinking water systems. Basically. And there is a debate about, again, how much should be allowed, but the EPA took the stance that no amount is safe. So, they set the maximum contamination limit under the National Primary Drinking Water Act, a congressional act. They set it at four parts per trillion. This is the first time in over a decade that a new series of contaminants has been added under this law. So, it's a really big deal. And it's by far the most restrictive. So, most of the time when you see a maximum contamination limit, it's in parts per million or parts per billion. Now we're in parts per trillion, not only parts for training but four parts per trillion. It's basically to non-detect levels. What our instrumentation is able to detect at this point.

Chris: [00:07:59]
Which is pretty scary given the fact that they obviously see something very wrong with PFAS if they're looking to remove them entirely from the water source, where, you know, all these other hazardous chemicals prior to this, seem like they had a little bit softer regulation up until this point. So that's kind of interesting to think about is, is the fact that the EPA has seen these as so significant that they are looking to remove them entirely from the water supply.

Tim: [00:07:57]
Correct. I think, the pushback would be the EPA doesn't really know. And I think the EPA would also recognize and they did, that we don't know. But because we don't know how damaging these things are, and we don't really even have a good idea at this point of how prolific these things are in our environment. because we don't know, we're going to take a restrictive approach. And if the science evolves over time, there are mechanisms in the regulation to change it. So, if we find out, you know, ten parts per trillion is probably safe, then they'll up it to ten parts per trillion. In fact, some of the PFAS chemicals are at ten parts per trillion. The two most common long chain PFAS, PFOA and PFOS. Those two are the two that are at four parts per trillion, because those are the most common and the ones that they're really targeting. So anyway, so the maximum contamination limits are specifically for the drinking water systems themselves. And so there are about 66,000 public utilities in the United States that this rule governs. And the EPA estimates that anywhere from 6% to 10% of these utilities, these public drinking water utilities, will need to implement some sort of remediation system.

Tim: [00:09:24]
Now, the MCL says specifically that all 66,000 are going to have to implement a monitoring system within the next three years to understand how much PFAS they have in their water supply, and then they have an additional two years, so five years from now, to remediate, if you're above that, four parts per trillion, the EPA thinks about 6 to 10% of public water utilities, or systems will have to implement some sort of remediation system, though there are others out there, like the American Waterworks Association, which is kind of a, a think tank for these public utilities, that thinks that it could be much higher than that. And in fact, we did an expert call recently where the experts said four parts per trillion is so restrictive that, you know, he thinks it's going to be above 6% to 10% too. And I think there is a recognition that we really just don't know. And we won't know until there are monitoring systems in place. It could be way above that. It could be way below that. So, I think that that’s the first regulation. The second one, is CERCLA, the circle Superfund act that is in place for, hazardous substances. There are lots of different hazardous substances that are governed under this law like lead, think arsenic, or asbestos. So, if there's an industrial site that's heavy with contamination around that area, then they could fall under what's called the EPA's National Priorities List. NPL. If you fall under that National Priorities List, you could be designated as a CERCLA Superfund site, which is something that you don't want. If you're a private company, you really don't want this because it typically takes a long time. You know, years if not decades, where you have to undergo this cleanup and it's very expensive. So, you don't want your site to fall under the National Priorities List. The hope being that this will stimulate activity around cleanup, so people can avoid falling under this designation of being a Superfund site. And they have thresholds for how much is allowed.

It's kind of technical, but basically, if you are rife with PFAS in a given area, you're at risk of becoming a Superfund site, which is something that you don't want. So, these two rulings in conjunction are targeting the biggest issues, which is it in your water supply and targeting the most contaminated areas. And one area that's of chief concern are military bases and airports because of firefighting foam.

Firefighting foam is basically pure PFAS. And these bases and these airports have to, you know, under SA regulations, have to do practice firefighting, right? Like you set something on fire, and then you practice going out there and putting it out. And that happens every so often. So, there are a lot of these bases and airports, basically most of them, that have significant PFAS contamination that will require some sort of cleanup that doesn't fall under the drinking water utilities but will be very relevant as it relates to circle Superfund. And, the DoD is setting aside money now, you know, that's starting to undergo. But I would say with these rulings in place, we are probably in the first inning of a very long tail of monitoring, consulting, testing, remediating and ultimately destroying these chemicals.

Chris: [00:13:16]
And how defensible are these rulings? Is there a chance they could get overturned at any point? Especially if a new administration comes in next year?

Tim: [00:13:26]
Good question. Because the Environmental Business Journal estimates that the TAM for PFAS remediation. The total addressable market could be upwards of $200 billion over the over the next 20 years.

Chris: [00:13:42]
Yeah, what a number. Yeah.

Tim: [00:13:43]
It’s a big number, and they had it at $160 billion a few years ago. And $120 billion a few years before that. So, it keeps increasing as we start to understand the scope of the problem, and I have no doubt it will go up again.

All of this is for nothing if these rulings go away. So, understanding the defensibility is important. I think there's three different categories. When we think about defensibility, number one is that the administration, the executive branch, second is legislative and the third is judicial.

So, thinking about could these be repealed or pulled back in any way? We look at it from those, three different vectors. Administratively, obviously the Biden administration is the one that implemented these things. So, if there was a reelection there, there's low to no risk. But if a different administration came in, the question is, could they repeal it, or could they ignore it?

The repeal side is, I think, is lower risk. The reason I say that, you know, we think about it from the CRA, the Congressional Review Act. That's something that the Trump administration used a lot in 2016, to repeal some of the Obama administration, rulings, basically anything that was passed recently, before the new administration comes in, there's a mechanism within this old law that allows you to repeal it if you have the votes in Congress.

So, they were able to do that in 2016 successfully. But there's a look back period. And because these passed in April, the thought is that it won't fall under that lookback period. The lookback period is probably going to fall towards the end of June or end of July. It has to do with how many days after congress is done with their session. It's like 60 days after the session is over. I don't know, it's kind of technical. It depends upon how many days they meet in between. So, it's a moving target. But having passed in April, the thought is, not subject to the CRA. So, then you move to, well, could they repeal it? The answer is yes, they could repeal it. But it would be, because it falls under the National Primary Drinking Water Act, which is a legislative act, you have to actually undergo an entire process. Basically, you'd have to repeat the process that the Biden, as we understand it, that the Biden administration just went through over the last four years. It's a long process. You have to gather all the academic data and come up with a different conclusion that says, hey, this, this suggests that four parts per trillion is unnecessary. It should be ten parts or 100 parts or, you know, not at all.

Chris: [00:16:25]

Tim: [00:16:26]
And then you have to propose the ruling. Then you go through a comment period, then you go through a finalization period. This takes years, not months. And so, this would be probably towards the end of the next administration, towards the middle or end of the next administration. If they were to go down this path to repeal it. It is a restrictive law that’s going to cost industry a lot of money. So, it does kind of fall into that category of, a regulation that's going to be costly to industry, something that would typically be on the higher end of a target for a more conservative administration to want to repeal, folks that want to cut red tape. However, this PFAS issue is kind of nonpartisan. If you look across both sets of the aisle, there really isn’t a lot of pushback in either direction for this thing. So, it seems less likely.

Also, the remediation threshold is five years, right? So even when the next administration comes in, the thought is, well, yeah, a drinking water utility could wait. They could wait hoping that there's a repeal. But if that doesn't happen or if a different administration comes in after that, then you waited for no reason because it's five years instead of four. And so, we actually think that five years was implemented by design. It was expected that you would have three years to monitor and also remediate. But instead, the finalized ruling kind of changed folks expectations. They pushed it to five years. And we think that's why. Because, you know, the next administration was only four years. So, we think that repealing is low because it's nonpartisan and it's a long process, but we'll see. And then the last thing is ignoring and this one is a risk, right? The Trump administration could just ignore, those public utilities that decide not to go down this path, just not penalize them.

That is something that we've seen with other rulings during the previous Trump administration around oil and gas. They gave, basically, amnesty to some of the carbon rules around pollution, to, to some of the oil and gas folks. So, there is that possibility that they could ignore the regulation. But again, that only works if the Trump administration is reelected, or another conservative administration comes in after that.

If it goes back to the Democratic side, it's likely that you will still have to follow the rules that are in place. So, low risk from CRA or no risk, we think from CRA. Low risk from repeal, some risk to ignoring the regulation. But we think that most water utilities will still move down this path knowing that they have five years.

In fact, if you look at the public commentary from the public water utilities on the most recent earnings cycle, they're kind of all bending over backwards to show that they're moving into compliance with this thing. I mean, they've all set aside a specific amount of capex already.

Chris: [00:19:39]
Really? Oh, wow.

Tim: [00:19:40]
Highlighting to investors. So, it seems like they're falling in line there.

The second is legislative. Again, it seems like a bipartisan issue. Whether you're conservative or on the more liberal end, you don't want your children drinking, dangerous chemicals, harmful chemicals in the water. So, probably lower risk there. And then the last is the courts, the judicial side. And we do expect court challenges. Probably not from the utilities themselves. Again, they all already outlining the amount of capex required to implement these remediation systems.

Chris: [00:20:20]
Seems like they're on board. Right?

Tim: [00:20:21]
Yes. But, potentially from industry. What they'll probably challenge is not the ruling themselves, that it's hazardous because the EPA came out and said it's hazardous, and they've got the science, the academic papers and stuff to back it up.

What they'll probably challenge is the threshold to say that it's too restrictive. So we'll just have to see how that goes. But for now, this four parts per trillion is the law of the land. And something that we expect everyone to begin moving towards.

Chris: [00:20:51]
You mentioned this a little earlier. You sat down with a few experts in the space to discuss, the regulatory landscape, to talk defensibility. You talked about, the impact of the ruling on both upstream and downstream parties and then the companies most likely to benefit going forward and so forth. What from your point of view, were the most interesting takeaways from those expert calls?

Tim: [00:21:13]
There were a couple. We spent a lot of time with these experts because some of them are practitioners in the space helping companies think about their next move. What kind of monitoring system do you put in place. What kind of remediation system would work best here. So, they're on the operations side, but they also have experience on the regulatory side.

And so, we spent a lot of time talking about defensibility. And that's kind of a lot of the opinions I just gave you on defensibility were not my opinions. They were gathered from these experts who know better than me.

So, we spent a lot of time there understanding the defensibility. And then, we talked to them about the scope of the impact from these regulations because most, it was interesting, but a lot of these experts that we've spoken to believe that that 6% to 10% estimate by the EPA is too low.

The reason that they think so is because when these regulations are set, the EPA has to do a cost benefit analysis, and they want to be able to show that the costs are offset by the benefits. So, the benefits would be lower health care costs from adverse outcomes, right. Cancer rates and that kind of thing. And they estimated that it would be the benefit would be $1.5 billion a year in health care savings, and, you know, lost time off work.

And then coincidentally the cost was $1.5 billion. A perfect offset. What are the chances, right? So, they think that 6% to 10% estimate to get to that $1.5 billion number was more a convenience to offset the benefits with an exact cost.

The AWA thinks that it will actually be closer to $3.4 or $3.5 billion a year. So more than double what the EPA estimates. And also that four parts per trillion being so restrictive, they think it's going to be more than 6% to 10% of these water systems that are above that level. It's just such a prolific chemical in our water supply. Now, again, it's in basically all of our bodies. In most of our water streams. It's probably in more than 6% to 10%, according to these experts. So, I thought that was interesting.

And then, there was the idea that there would be a preference for onsite solutions, I think was another big takeaway. The idea here is that now that PFOA and PFOS, again, two of the two most common PFAS. Those are now designated hazardous substances. And because of that, you're going to see a reluctance from, you know, hazardous waste disposal sites and transportation logistics companies to carry this stuff from point A to point B, which, you know, the risk goes up, so to speak, in terms of, carrying this stuff around.

And so any solution that can remediate and destroy these chemicals in place so that you don't have to carry them from point A to point B, lowers the risk profile of the solution, which I thought was interesting because there are some companies out there that do have in place solutions, and there are other more common ways to remediate this stuff that requires it to take it off site. So, there's, this idea that there will, over time, be a greater preference for onsite solutions, which definitely favors some companies over others.

And then I would say the last idea that we got from these expert calls is this idea of upstream impacts or adjacent impacts. The basic idea being here is the MCL regulation targets drinking water systems. But if you think about your local town, right, like let's say that the drinking water utility in your town finds that they're exceeding the limit, they'll have to implement some sort of remediation solution. Maybe that costs $1 million, maybe $3 million, depending upon the size. Some of them could be even more $4 to $5 million.

But that's kind of the range that we're talking about for these drinking water systems, because drinking water systems have other filtration. They've got nano filtration.

Chris: [00:25:38]
It's actually a great question. One that I had. I'm surprised that these weren't being removed to begin with. But then again, I guess the filtration systems were not identifying PFAS as one of the problems to filter.

Tim: [00:25:49]
That’s right. And so you have different technologies that specifically target PFAS that if those aren't in there, they might be getting rid of the other impurities, but they're not getting rid of all the PFAS. But they are getting rid of some of it. Right. Reverse osmosis is a common thing that water utilities use. And that does have efficacy against PFAS.

Granulated activated carbon is something that's used for other chemicals. It can also be used for PFAS. So drinking water systems, generally, are expected to have lower levels of PFAS because some of that's getting taken out already.

However, there are plenty that will still likely exceed that amount. So, let's say your drinking water facility and your town finds out it's above the threshold. They'll implement their solution. But what are they going to do next?

They're going to look around for the culprit. Do you have a military base nearby? Do you have an airport nearby? Do you have an old industrial site that has since shut down 20 years ago? But could be still, you know, have a lot of contaminants around that area.

There's going to be we expect quite a bit of public pressure. And that's what these experts expect, that, hey, until we actually target that site, this issue is not going away. It's fine that our drinking water facility is remediating it there, but we need to go attack the source of the problem. And so even though the MCL is only targeting drinking water facilities, there's likely going to be upstream effects that go well beyond the drinking water facilities themselves.

Chris: [00:27:18]
Yep, and that makes sense. I thought it was also worth talking about. You went ahead and you compiled commentary for the first quarter earnings cycle from businesses that offer PFAS related solutions or are affected by the regulations. So, without getting into each company specifically, it would be helpful for us to hear some of the main takeaways you got from the calls. If you don't mind.

Tim: [00:27:40]
Yeah. I was excited to do this. The timing was perfect because these regs came out in early to mid-April, and the earnings cycle begins in late April, early May. So, we got a glimpse into how each of these companies who thinks about this stuff every day, who has solutions, who have large consulting practices or, big lab networks that test for this stuff, or actually remediation disruption solutions, they actually came out and talked about it as it was obviously a big topic on all these calls.

There was one company that said they expect a doubling in the run rate of their PFAs revenue, by the end of this year. So, they do you know, it's they do $4 billion in revenue. And their PFAS solutions business is only 60 million. So, it may not be a needle mover in the near term, but still to double from $60 million to $120 million in six months is an indication that this is taking off and will be a needle mover. Because where does that $120 million go in 2025 and then 2026. So, this does start to become a material thing for this company. Another company said they're already having increased activities already underway. Significant growth opportunities for them across the spectrum. And, their conversations are ramping up meaningfully already with how they characterize it as, visible momentum in that business.

Another company that offers consultancy solutions around this have identified it as a margin accretive growth opportunity. In other words, emphasizing the idea that this is a high margin business for them. So not only is it going to be a top line mover for them, but it's also going to be a bottom-line mover.

And a fourth company kind of characterized it as a catalyst for scope growth. So, they are already offering solutions for water, utilities, and water solutions for industrial clients. But this is going to help them expand the scope of all their contracts meaningfully in the coming years.

And I could go down the list. You know, one of them called it an important growth engine.

Another one said we expect 2x to 3x revenue from this offering over the next several years. And, you know, we have a whole list of companies that have characterized it in different ways. But it was way more than we were even expecting. just from, you know, a couple weeks after these rulings came out.

Chris: [00:30:14]
Which I think is a good segue. We're talking about expectations. What are these PFAS remediation services and solutions? What does it all mean? Would you be able to go into these a little bit just to help explain what this might look like in the long run?

Tim: [00:30:40]
Yeah. So, stepping back, I mean, everyone's going to have to understand what their exposure level is. So that’s step one. So, early on, we expect a meaningful step up in consulting and advisory and testing. Consulting and advisory…you have companies that are exposed to this because they have manufacturing sites, industrial sites. There's the DoD, federal agencies, airports. There's lots of folks out there that don't really understand this issue. And so, they're leaning heavily on these consultancy agencies to help them understand what their exposure is and what they need to do about it. So, probably early on, like the next 12 months, you're going to see a strong ramp in consulting and advisory services.

After that it'll be the testing revenue streams, right. There aren't that many lab networks out there that test for PFAS because you got a chicken and the egg problem. Because when you're testing for parts per trillion, it's actually different equipment than when you're testing for parts per million or parts per billion. And so, labs don't typically invest in all this expensive equipment until there's demand, but you don't get the demand until you've invested in the equipment.

And so, at this point, there's only a handful of these, lab networks out there that even test for PFAS, but we expect to see much more investment now that that demand is just going to be much more certain.

But you'll see a steady ramp in testing over the next several years, and then that'll lead into remediation and ultimately destruction.

Now on the remediation side, there's a couple different technologies at commercial scale today that actually do solve the problem. The most common is called granulated activated carbon or GAC. And it's just a glorified Brita water filter, basically. Think about your, little pieces of, of carbon that are, in your Brita water filter. It's a big system like that. The carbon can be attenuated to attract the PFAS through an adsorption process.

And so, basically the carbon grabs all the PFAS, it becomes saturated with the PFAS. And then it needs to be, that dirty carbon needs to be disposed of.

Now, right now we don't have a great solution for that. Unfortunately, at commercial scale it's bury or burn it right now. And so there are incinerator hazardous waste incinerators that you can send to burn it. But the EPA doesn't love that.

Chris: [00:33:26]
Doesn’t that just send it back out into the environment or no?

Tim: [00:33:29]
Well, so the incinerators that handle this stuff say that they carefully contain it, but the EPA still has question marks around whether or not it's fully contained.

They're still working on that with some of the large incinerators. But there are right now, hazardous waste disposal folks who are incinerating this stuff and seeing a lot of revenue ramp in that business to get rid of the dirty carbon.

The other solution is to bury it. Send it to a hazardous disposal waste landfill. But there’s issues with landfill leaching. And if you think about it, at the core, what are you doing? Well, what you’re doing is basically gathering the problem from point A and dumping the problem into point B.

Chris: [00:34:10]
Right. Can’t that just seep down to the water table? There's issues with that too, isn't there?

Tim: [00:34:15]
There's absolutely issues with that. And the EPA doesn't love that. So, there are some emerging technologies to destroy it. But it's a tough problem.

So that's GAC. And that will be very common for the drinking water facilities because GAC is good at capturing long chain PFAS. So, there's different lengths of the chain. I talked about that carbon fluorine head. Then there’s a long tail. So, the longer chain stuff is easier to grab. It's got a long chain.

The shorter chain stuff is not so easy to grab. And GAC does not have high efficacy rates around grabbing the short chain stuff. So, we move to a different technology called ion exchange resins. Same idea, except instead of little carbon pieces, it's little resin beads. And these resins, these ion exchange resins have an added property. They don't work just through adsorption. They also work through absorption. So not only are they pulling it in, they're going out and grabbing it, basically is the chemical process, is a boil it down in simplistic terms. There are two mechanisms to grab this stuff.

And it has much higher efficacy rates around both long chain and short chain. So, in areas where you know, there's a lot of contamination, there also tends to be more short chain PFAS. And so, ion exchange might be, a more favored solution. Now it's more expensive to implement. And you still have the same problem that when those resins get saturated, you have to destroy them.

And, you have to you have to do something with them. Bury and burn is really your only two options at this point. But there are some emerging destruction technologies coming out of there.

There's also, you know, different types of ion exchange solutions. So, there are, companies out there that offer what's called regenerable resins, where actually you can clean off the resins in place and put them back in. So, the only thing you're left with is a tiny little effluent of dirty PFAS water. So, it concentrates the PFAS, and you don't have to bury or burn the spent media because there is no spent media because it's regenerated. So, there are the types of ion exchange solutions.

And then there's reverse osmosis, which has been around for a really long time. Just like GAC and ion exchange. I mean, these things have been used for other things, but reverse osmosis, the issue there is that you have a large supply of dirty water. So, yeah, the experts, that we spoke to suggest that if 100% of the water, the, influent going in, about 20% of it going out is dirty. So, you're still left with a really large supply of dirty water that you have to do something with.

So, probably RO will be used in a combination with, granulated activated carbon or reverse osmosis. These things can be used in conjunction with each other.

But a new one that is exciting is called foam fractionation. And, this one, it's interesting because it's effective at long chain and it's cheaper to set up. You basically spin the water really fast. And because the head of the fast molecule's hydrophobic and the tail is hydrophilic, if you spin it really fast, it of cuts off the head from the body.

Chris: [00:37:26]
Wow. Who figured that out? That’s pretty incredible.

Tim: [00:37:30]
It is. Yeah. And there's a couple different companies we spoke to that offer that technology. But again, it's good at long chain. Not so great at short chain because the tails aren't that long so they don't split off. But you can sometimes use it in combination with different reagents to capture some of that short chain stuff.

So, the idea is there's lots of different technologies today at commercial scale that will work. Some of them will be used in conjunction with others, and some of them will be more favored.

Again, drinking water facilities, GAC, foam fractionation. These things will be probably adequate. In dirtier places, where there's more contamination, you might need a more expensive, ion exchange resin- solution.

Chris: [00:38:11]
Got it. Well, Tim, I wish we could, talk about this a lot longer. Unfortunately, we are at time. I really appreciate you being on the show. It has been a lot of fun. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before we jump?

Tim: [00:38:23]
I think we did a good job of covering everything. You know, one fact that I thought was interesting to put in context, everyone, when we're talking about four parts per trillion, just in terms of sizing it for folks. One part per trillion, if you think about it in terms of time, one part per trillion would be one second, in, 32,000 years.

Chris: [00:38:57]
Wow. That is incredible to think about. Wow. That seems unrealistic. But that's also, I guess, where we must go with this. That’s interesting.

Tim: [00:39:11]
That's the scope of the issue that we're dealing with right now, Chris.

Chris: [00:39:13]
It's a tough issue. Yeah.

Tim: [00:39:17]
But it's one that, you know, companies, they do have commercial scale solutions today. The regulations are in place and we're finally getting around to dealing with an issue that's been around for decades. We're finally starting to see movement, so it's an exciting time.

Chris: [00:39:35]
Okay. Well, Tim thanks again. We'll talk soon.