What are Environmental Contaminants?

There is a growing awareness of chemicals in the world's water supply. Recent research has shown that a wide variety of such chemicals exist at trace concentrations in streams, lakes, rivers and groundwater throughout the world.

The term environmental contaminants refers to harmful chemicals present in soil, air and water. These compounds may come directly from human sources such as industrial manufacturing, agricultural run-off and wastewater discharge, or they may originate from natural sources, such as the taste and odor-causing chemicals in water generated by algae and bacteria blooms.

Emerging Environmental Contaminants

A stabilizer that is commonly found with volatile organic compounds like trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) as well as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 1,4-dioxane is highly soluble and cannot be easily removed through by filtration methods using activated carbon or reverse osmosis. Learn more about 1,4-dioxane here.

NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine)
The nitrosamine group, a group that includes N‑nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), has attracted increased attention from the water treatment community as potent and potentially wide-ranging water contaminants. While their presence in municipal wastewater and indirect potable reuse is relatively well understood, understanding of their presence in drinking water is limited. Learn more about NDMA here.

Taste and Odor Compounds
The primary sources of taste and odor problems in drinking water are algae and bacteria. However, other anthropogenic sources such as wastewater discharges and chemical spills also act as sources of chemicals that cause off tastes and odors. Such chemicals can affect both groundwater and surface water. Learn more about taste and odor compounds here.


Other Types of Environmental Contaminants
These compounds can be treated either by ultraviolet (UV) light alone, or by UV light in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide.

  • N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  • Taste and odor-causing compounds (eg. MIB and geosmin)
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs)
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Fuels and fuel additives (eg. MTBE and BTEX)
  • VOCs (eg. PCE and TCE)
  • Endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs)

Why Choose UV for Environmental Contaminants?

Simultaneous Disinfection
UV, as part of a multi-barrier system, can act to disinfect and destroy contaminants simultaneously. This is accomplished without the formation of potentially hazardous disinfection by-products - such as the formation of THMs when using chlorine or the formation of bromate when using ozone.

For certain contaminants, UV is the only economical method of treatment. For example, NDMA and 1,4-dioxane cannot be fully treated with membrane technologies (including reverse osmosis), carbon adsorption or air stripping.

Eliminates Residuals
UV also has the added advantage of being a destructive technology that breaks down a variety of contaminants into their safe, elemental components. Other treatment technologies merely transfer the contaminant from one phase to another (eg. air stripping: from water to air) - resulting in a potentially hazardous, contaminant-laden residual that requires further treatment or disposal.

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