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Lara Phelps
Lara Phelps

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development

Lara Phelps is the Director for the U.S. EPA’s Air Methods and Characterization Division (AMCD) in the Center for Environmental Measurement and Modeling, Office of Research and Development (ORD) where she overseas diverse research to develop, evaluate, and apply advanced laboratory and field methods to measure, characterize, and analyze concentrations of pollutants in the air and at a diverse array of emission sources. Prior to her AMCD appointment, Lara served as the Director and Deputy Director of ORD’s Air and Energy Management Division; and as the Senior Advisor for Measurement, Modeling, Monitoring, and Laboratory Science issues and as Acting Deputy Director in the Office of the Science Advisor (OSA). In over 25 years with EPA, she has served in various positions and roles within the Office of Air and Radiation, ORD, and OSA gaining expertise in a wide range of areas from management and leadership to budgeting and program planning to innovative strategies and technologies. Lara elected to do her bachelor’s and master’s work in Statistics at North Carolina State University with a minor in Mathematics. She has received numerous honors including four bronze medals and service recognition in support of the Nation’s response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Thermal Treatment – Innovative and Traditional Solutions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (i.e., EPA’s or the Agency’s) research builds the scientific foundation, develops the methodologies, and collects the data needed to determine priorities, support future action, and identify additional research needs. The Agency is investigating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to characterize and understand the environmental fate and impacts to help prioritize risk and needs. Research being performed across the Agency is presently focused on four primary areas: 1) analytical methods to identify presence of PFAS in the environment; 2) health and ecological effects to understand potential hazards and identify those PFAS of highest priority for further toxicity testing; 3) potential sources, fate, and transport of PFAS to better understand how and to what degree people and ecosystems are being exposed, and 4) technologies for reducing, removing, and remediating PFAS found in our air, drinking water, soils, and other environmental media, and for safely managing or destroying PFAS-contaminated materials.

In the Office of Research and Development’s, Center for Environmental Measurement and Modeling, Air Methods and Characterization Division (AMCD), researchers are developing and evaluating air emissions measurement methods for PFAS (i.e., stack, ambient, fugitive) from stationary sources, including incinerators. Ambient and fugitive methods development will help assess environmental (i.e., air deposition to land and water) and health impacts. Measurement capability is necessary to develop policy and guidance on mitigation/control and compliance. Determining the appropriate method for the ultimate disposal of PFAS wastes is also a complex issue due to their stability, volatility, solubility, and environmental mobility and persistence. AMCD is leading the investigation into the effectiveness of incineration to adequately treat and dispose of PFAS waste, given the tendency for formation of products of incomplete combustion, which are being examined.

The PFAS Innovative Treatment Team (PITT) was established with a six-month charge to identify, develop, and validate a cost-effective, readily available solution(s) to destroy PFAS that meets the needs of EPA programs and regions, states, and tribes. From April – September 2020, the PITT explored some innovative means for destruction and provided resources to accelerate some of our bench- and pilot- scale incineration testing. While some of this work continues, a “Toolbox” has been established to provide information on possible innovative techniques explored for use. This talk is focused on PFAS destruction. How do we measure and potentially destroy PFAS in waste materials? And more….

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