Evaluation of PFAS removal from nanofiltration membrane concentrate using foam fractionation

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Abstract: Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFASs) have become an urgent topic in the water treatment industry in recent years as a consequence of new scientific discoveries of the correlation between the ingestion of some PFASs and their toxicity in humans and other organisms. PFASs are synthetic compounds present in a variety of products. Due to their desirable physical and chemical properties, PFASs are found in everything from clothes and furniture to aqueous fire-fighting foams. These compounds have also been identified in food and drinking water. The flourine-carbon bond present in these chemicals are exceptionally strong. Hence PFASs are persistent in nature when leaked to the environment. Additionally, the mobility properties of PFASs in the soil leads to contamination of surface and groundwater, necessitating actions from drinking water treatment plants (DWTP).  Nanofiltration plants have shown to successfully reduce the PFASs content in contaminated waters. The accumulation of PFASs in the concentrate is a potent source of these compounds and requires treatment before leaving the DWTP. Foam fractionation (FF) is an aeration technique that utilizes the hydrophobic properties of the PFASs compounds, in which PFASs adsorbs to the interfaces of introduced rising air-bubbles. The foam forming at the surface is then extracted, reducing the contamination.  In this study, the efficacy of the FF system on a concentrate from a two-stage nanofiltration membrane was evaluated. Also, the ability of surfactants to enhance the PFAS reduction was explored. The study was conducted in two parts. The first part was executed in a laboratory scale environment where five surfactants were added to a batchwise FF system. A minimum dose was determined and four experimental runs were then executed for each surfactant: Zero surfactant, 1x minimum dose, 2x minimum dose and 5x minimum dose. The results were evaluated and the surfactant showing the greatest improvement of PFASs removal, in this study a cationic surfactant, was chosen for further investigations in the second part. A continuous pilot FF system was used in the second part, the inner diameter of the colon was 54 mm, the height of the water column was held at 1 m prior to the aeration, the contact time (CT) was 10 minutes and the air-flow rate was set to be 4 L/min in all runs. Four experimental runs were conducted with different doses of the cationic surfactant: Zero surfactant, 1x minimum dose, 2x minimum dose and 3x minimum dose. Each experiment was repeated three times. A total of 12 runs were performed.  The results showed a removal efficiency of > 99 % of long-chained PFASs in all conducted experimental runs. Without the addition of surfactant, the average removal efficiency of ∑ short-chained PFASs was 61 % whereas maximum removal (77 %) was obtained with the highest surfactant dose applied. The mean reduction of ∑PFASs was 90 % in the zero surfactant run and 94 % in the highest dose experiment. The main findings from the study were that: 1) FF is an efficient method for the removal of long-chained PFASs from concentrate 2) Surfactants can be added to increase the removal of short-chained PFASs, 3) Higher dosing of the surfactant positively correlated with the removal efficiency of ∑short-chained PFASs in the FF system, however the relationship was not linear. 

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