Since its development, AMTS has proven to be a valuable solution for removing PCBs from paint, caulking, and various insulation and filler materials in older buildings, naval ships, and former munitions facilities where the presence of PCBs interferes with methods for removing trace explosive materials. Miles of potentially toxic caulking join sections of runways at airports. Any of these materials installed before 1979 potentially contain PCBs, Quinn says.
“This is not just a NASA problem,” she says. “It’s a global problem.”
To provide the benefits of the AMTS solution on a national scale, Kennedy made the technology available for licensing. It quickly caught the eye of a company already familiar with the Center’s environmental innovations. Cantonment, Florida-based Bio Blend Technologies, the remedial arm of U.S. O’Neill Industries, had previously licensed the NASA-developed EZVI technology and saw AMTS as an innovation with significant potential.
“The future for AMTS is untapped,” says Bio Blend COO Roger Kubala. The company licensed the technology, and now, Kubala says, “Bio Blend is capable of cleaning any kind of hydrocarbon contamination, pesticides, PCBs—we’re a one-stop shop for treating all organic chlorides and contaminants.”
AMTS joins Bio Blend’s extensive range of remediation tools, including EZVI and the company’s proprietary remediation blends. Employing these products using a mobile system that allows the company to treat and destroy nearly any contaminant onsite, Bio Blend has solved environmental challenges resistant to other treatment methods.
At one site—a Florida gas station where years of leaks from single-skin, underground gas tanks had contaminated the surrounding soil and groundwater—nine years and over $1 million worth of remediation had yielded little effect. Utilizing its NASA and proprietary solutions, Bio Blend cleared 98.9 percent of the contaminants in 77 days at a fraction of the cost. At a similar site, the company reduced the pollutants to nondetect status in 52 days. Owners of contaminated land are often unable to sell their property or even secure loans; Bio Blend’s intervention allows these property owners to regain the value of their land and does not interfere with ongoing business. The gas stations maintained full operations during the remediation.
Bio Blend’s success in these cases results from its pairing of NASA technology with its own innovations, says David O’Neill, president of U.S. O’Neill Industries and Bio Blend. “There was nothing prior to EZVI that would get far enough down into the groundwater. Coupling EZVI with our blends allows you to dig down as deep as you want and eradicate whatever the contaminant is. It is revolutionary.” The AMTS technology takes the company’s capabilities even further, he says. “PCBs are the asbestos of the future. Because there has not been a lot of dialogue about it, there was not a good remediation technique for it until now.”
Quinn finds significant satisfaction in the impact these technologies have outside of NASA. “It provides a great sense of fulfillment that the technologies we are developing through NASA can impact the everyday lives of everyday people,” she says.
Bio Blend is also working closely with the University of West Florida, where it has a dedicated lab for the testing, creation, and production of new products. “This is a perfect collaborative fit with some of the best academic minds, a talented student pool, and a university president focused on being a think tank for cutting edge technologies,” says O’Neill. In addition, the company will soon open a new blending plant for manufacturing its proprietary and NASA-derived products, and it is exploring ways of using AMTS to remove PCBs from soil.
“We feel very strongly that, from a societal standpoint, we’re in a unique place and time,” says O’Neill. “We are going to have to clean up to continue our quality of life for future generations.” According to Bio Blend, its NASA-developed solutions help enable that goal.
“We have the tools now,” says Kubala. “It’s time to get the word out to the world that there is an answer.”