Effectiveness of reverse osmosis filtration in removing PFAS: ensuring safe water reuse

Michael Bartlett

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on August 01st, 2023

The treatment of municipal waters is critical to ensure clean and safe water for communities. Reverse osmosis filtration stands out as one of the most effective methods for removing harmful contaminants like PFAS - per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Ensuring access to clean and safe water is a fundamental requirement for the well-being of any community. Municipal water treatment plays a vital role in purifying water for consumption and other essential uses. Among the various filtration methods, reverse osmosis has shown remarkable effectiveness in removing harmful contaminants, including perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). However, not all filtration systems are equally efficient, and careful consideration must be given to water reuse and its associated challenges.

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a powerful water filtration process that uses a semipermeable membrane to separate contaminants from water. During RO, water is forced through the membrane, allowing only water molecules and small ions to pass through, while larger molecules and contaminants, such as PFAS, are left behind. Studies have shown that RO filters and two-stage filters have the highest efficacy in removing PFAS, with reductions exceeding 94%. This makes reverse osmosis a valuable tool in municipal water treatment, especially when dealing with recycled or saltwater for drinking purposes.

The role of water reuse in enhancing water security and sustainability

Water scarcity is a growing concern in many regions, necessitating innovative solutions to ensure a stable water supply. Water reuse, also known as water reclamation, involves treating and repurposing various sources of water for beneficial applications. These sources may include:

  • Municipal wastewater
  • Industrial process water
  • Stormwater
  • Agriculture runoff
  • Produced water from natural resource extraction

Treating these water sources to meet "fit-for-purpose specifications" ensures they are safe and suitable for specific applications.

Uses for recycled water

Water reuse offers a wide range of applications, contributing to sustainable water management. Some common uses include:

  • Irrigation: Reclaimed water can be utilized for agricultural irrigation, landscaping in parks and golf courses, and maintaining green spaces.
  • Municipal Water Supply: Treated recycled water can supplement traditional water sources, ensuring a stable municipal water supply.
  • Industrial Use: Recycled water is suitable for processing water in power plants, refineries, mills, and factories, reducing the demand for freshwater resources.
  • Non-Potable Indoor Use: Certain non-potable uses, like toilet flushing, can be served with recycled water, reducing the strain on drinking water supplies.
  • Environmental Restoration: Reclaimed water can support environmental restoration projects, enhancing ecosystems and habitats.

The reality of PFAS removal in household water filters

While reverse osmosis and two-stage filters have shown high efficacy in removing PFAS at municipal treatment plants, the situation is different for household water filters.

The study conducted by Duke University and North Carolina State University shed light on an alarming issue concerning the efficiency of household water filters in removing toxic PFAS from drinking water. While municipal water treatment plants, employing reverse osmosis and two-stage filters, have demonstrated high efficacy in reducing PFAS levels, the same cannot be said for the filters commonly used in households.

The predominance of activated carbon filters

Activated carbon filters are widely popular in household water filtration systems due to their cost-effectiveness and ability to improve taste and odor. These filters work by adsorbing impurities onto their porous surfaces, effectively removing contaminants from the water. However, the study revealed that when it comes to PFAS removal, activated-carbon filters fall short.

The research findings demonstrated that activated-carbon filters exhibit varying degrees of PFAS removal efficiency. In some instances, these filters managed to eliminate a significant portion of PFAS contaminants, while in other cases, they showed little to no effect. The unpredictability of PFAS removal highlights the complexity of interactions between PFAS molecules and the filter's adsorption surface.

With the guidance of our experienced attorneys, you can actively participate in the PFAS lawsuit

Environmental Litigation Group, with its 30 years of expertise in aiding toxic exposure victims, is well-equipped to assist local communities and public water systems in securing the necessary compensation for urgent PFAS remediation efforts. If your public water utility has detectable PFAS levels, you may qualify to join the PFAS lawsuit.

By joining this legal action, eligible parties stand a chance to receive a portion of 3M's historic settlement, which can help cover the otherwise unaffordable expenses associated with PFAS testing, treatment, and removal from wastewater. Should you have any doubts about your eligibility, do not hesitate to reach out to us for a complimentary case evaluation. Our team is here to support you throughout the process.