PERFLUOROALKYL SUBSTANCES (PFAS):CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN WATER TREATMENT

In 2016, the U.S. EPA released drinking water health advisory levels of 70 part per trillion for two PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).  As of March 2020, 23 states have implemented PFAS standards, some of which are non-enforceable (“advisory”) levels, but some of which are legally enforceable standards.

The EPA and state-level responses to the PFAS problem have triggered a need for treatment of PFAS in drinking water and/or wastewater streams.  Unfortunately, PFAS are not degraded via standard water treatment processes.  Standard practice for removing PFAS from water streams involves sorption to activated carbon or ion exchange.  These technologies can effectively remove PFOA and PFOS but may be less effective for other (‘short chain’) PFAS compounds.  Reverse osmosis (RO) or nanofiltration (NF) are being evaluated for their ability to remove all PFAS.  Currently, commercial-scale destruction of PFAS requires incineration at high temperatures.     

This presentation includes an overview of PFAS compounds including PFAS chemistry, overview of the challenges presented by PFAS, best available practices for PFAS treatment in water streams, and review of the state-of-the-science for emerging PFAS treatment approaches.
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