Perfluorinated Compounds Treatment and Removal
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What are PFCs?
The presence of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in source waters and drinking water is of growing concern to water professionals. This group of organic compounds, used for industrial and consumer applications such as nonstick coatings and firefighting foams, has potential health implications for humans and wildlife. PFCs are persistent in the environment and highly soluble in water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed the following PFCs as suspected drinking water contaminants with presence in drinking water under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3 (UCMR 3): perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA), perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS).
Current Regulation of PFCs
Currently there are no enforceable federal drinking water limits for PFCs. In May of 2016, EPA released Lifetime Health Advisories of 0.070 microgram per liter (μg/L) (70 ng/L) for PFOA and PFOS (individually or combined) for exposure from drinking water. These advisory levels are set at concentrations which EPA is certain are protective for the most sensitive individuals against reproductive and developmental impacts with a margin of safety. EPA has identified PFCs as an emerging contaminant because they have a pathway to enter the environment, may pose a human health or environmental risk, and do not have federal regulatory standards. In addition, individual states have begun to develop state PFC guidelines for monitoring and reducing PFCs in the environment. Levels of PFCs above state guidance levels and the national lifetime health advisory should be reported to your state’s primary agency to determine the course of action. EPA recommends that public health officials provide information on PFOA/PFOS exceedances to consumers with specific information regarding reproductive and developmental risks associated with elevated PFOA/PFOS levels.
Treatment Options for PFCs
Although the removal efficiency of PFCs from source waters depends on water treatment variables such as influent concentration and treatment conditions, several treatment methods have proven to remove up to 90% or greater of PFCs in finished water. Ultimately, systems facing a PFC treatment challenge will want to evaluate treatment strategies that best fit their source water, treatment objectives, and other system-specific considerations.