Posted by Cooper Johnston, MSc ● November 6, 2019

PFAS Solutions: Removing PFAS From Water

dirty water rotten apple pollution streamIn this post, we’ll explore the options for PFAS contaminated water.

What is PFAS? Read our post about what is is and why people are concerned.

When water is contaminated with PFAS, there currently a couple of options used for the safe removal of PFAS, though both have some significant drawbacks. One effective approach is to use reverse osmosis (RO), convert the concentrate to a solid and then incinerate the concentrated solid remains. However, RO is extremely expensive and the process removes all compounds from the water, not just the PFAS. This means that the waste generated includes lots of material that isn’t actually harmful, so there’s inefficiency. RO also requires a huge amount of energy. And once it’s done, all of the concentrated waste needs to be incinerated. This can be problematic, as temperatures must reach 1100-1200°C to properly destroy the PFAS and many industry-grade incinerators currently in operation top out at around 800°C.

screenshot osmosis filtration

Another approach is carbon filtration. Contaminated water is passed through a carbon filter, and the PFAS will be absorbed by (and adsorbed to) the filter. This method works for long-chain PFAS, but is less effective for short-chain PFAS (remember, there are 4000+ kinds). Much like RO, carbon filtration isn’t selective, so all compounds will be removed. Then there is the issue of when to change the filter, and how to dispose of the filter (probably incineration, again difficult to do at the proper temperature).

As PFAS continues to draw the attention of governments and regulators as a contaminant of concern, the remediation industry will push to explore innovative approaches for water and soil treatment. In the meantime, hold onto your raincoat and avoid spraying Scotch Guard near a storm drain.

What about contaminated soil? Read more about removing PFAS. 

Everything expressed in this article is my opinion, based on different literature sources.


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