Removal of organic contaminants from groundwater by reverse osmosis

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Virginia Tech


The performance of a poly(ether/urea) membrane has been evaluated in a full scale reverse osmosis system. A series of experiments were conducted with six aromatic compounds - anthracene, pyrene, fluorene, 2-chlorobiphenyl, 2,4,6 trichlorophenol, and pentachlorophenol- and four volatile compounds - trichloromethane, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and trichloroethene - as single and multi-solute contaminants. The objectives of the experiments were to determine if poly(ether/urea) membranes could produce a permeate that met maximum contaminant levels (MCL) set by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and to correlate membrane performance with physical/chemical properties of the solute contaminants.

Aromatic contaminants were removed to concentrations below the current MCLs. However, volatile contaminants were not sufficiently rejected by the membrane to meet either the MCL for total trihalomethanes or trichloroethene.

Sorption onto the poly(ether/urea) was found to occur for several of the aromatic compounds tested in this research. This prevented developing any relationship between membrane performance and physical/chemical properties of the solute.