Christopher P. Higgins
Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Colorado School of Mines
Christopher P. Higgins is an environmental chemist examining the fate of environmental contaminants in aquatic and terrestrial systems. Dr. Higgins’ received his A.B. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Harvard University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University. Prior to his graduate work, Dr. Higgins worked for the Cadmus Group, Inc., providing policy and regulatory support to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Upon finishing his Ph.D. at Stanford in 2006, Dr. Higgins became a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He joined the faculty at the Colorado School of Mines as an Assistant Professor in 2009, and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2014. His research focuses on the movement of contaminants in the environment. In particular, he studies chemical fate and transport in natural and engineered systems as well as bioaccumulation in plants and animals. Contaminants under study in his laboratory include poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances used in stain-repellent fabrics and fire-fighting foams, nanoparticles, wastewater-derived pharmaceuticals and personal care products, trace organic chemicals in urban stormwater, and trace metals. Dr. Higgins has authored nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications to date and his research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.
Remediation Challenges and Opportunities for AFFF-Impacted Sites
Growing concerns about human exposure to perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), two members of the broad family of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), have led to significant interest in treatment and remediation of sites impacted by aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs). Many challenges exist for developing technologies for these applications, including both the recalcitrance of the perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) and the complexity of their polyfluorinated chemical precursors. Advances in analytical techniques, particularly in characterizing the levels and identities of polyfluorinated chemical precursors, have given rise to opportunities to address these challenges even in the absence of definitive information for an impacted site. In this overview, these challenges will be discussed in the context of existing treatment technologies for water and soil treatment. Further, their implications with respect to ongoing remediation and treatment research will be presented. Finally, opportunities to address these challenges through the use of advanced characterization techniques and novel treatment strategies specific to AFFF-impacted sites will be presented.