Kothawala DN, Köhler SJ, Östlund A, Wiberg K, Ahrens L. Influence of dissolved organic matter concentration and composition on the removal efficiency of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) during drinking water treatment. Water research. 2017 May 24;121:320-328. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.05.047.
Drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) are constantly adapting to a host of emerging threats including the removal of micro-pollutants like perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), while concurrently considering how background levels of dissolved organic matter (DOM) influences their removal efficiency. Two adsorbents, namely anion exchange (AE) and granulated active carbon (GAC) have shown particular promise for PFAS removal, yet the influence of background levels of DOM remains poorly explored. Here we considered how the removal efficiency of 13 PFASs are influenced by two contrasting types of DOM at four concentrations, using both AE (Purolite A-600®) and GAC (Filtrasorb 400®). We placed emphasis on the pre-equilibrium conditions to gain better mechanistic insight into the dynamics between DOM, PFASs and adsorbents. We found AE to be very effective at removing both PFASs and DOM, while largely remaining resistant to even high levels of background DOM (8 mg carbon L-1) and surprisingly found that smaller PFASs were removed slightly more efficiently than longer chained counterparts, In contrast, PFAS removal efficiency with GAC was highly variable with PFAS chain length, often improving in the presence of DOM, but with variable response based on the type of DOM and PFAS chain length.