Emerging contaminants

Emerging contaminants, or contaminants of emerging concern, can refer to many different kinds of chemicals, including medications, household cleaning products, flame retardants, among others. Their prevalence and detection in drinking water supplies has made them a topic of high priority.



Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds are a group of man-made chemicals that are resistant to heat, water, and oil, and have been traditionally used in a wide range of consumer products and industrial applications. The EPA has published its PFAS Strategic Roadmap while an increasing number of individual states have begun to regulate them sooner. EPA’s fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) was published and will require sample collection for 29 PFAS (and lithium) between 2023 and 2025. While other PFAS removal processes are in development, the use of Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Ion Exchange (IX) medias are currently the most common. Read more about PFAS here. Wright-Pierce is currently helping several communities solve their PFAS issues by providing:

  • Treatability and pilot studies
  • Forensics
  • Treatment system design & construction administration
  • Temporary and emergency treatment
  • Funding assistance/submission of grant applications

Sample PFAS Projects

  • Pilot Study: Piloting of GAC and IX for the removal of PFAS downstream of existing Fe and Mn removal Water Treatment Plant (WTP).
  • Temporary Design: Design of a temporary PFAS removal process utilizing GAC for an existing ultrafiltration WTP.
  • Emergency Design: Design and implementation of IX for an emergency PFAS removal installation to meet demand before a permanent solution could be installed.
  • Forensic Study: Field study and forensic work of an existing well field to investigate the potential source of PFAS contamination.
  • Fast-track Design: Fast-track piloting, design, and construction implementation of a PFAS removal upgrade to an existing surface water WTP.

1,4‐Dioxane is an emerging contaminant that is found in drinking water supplies throughout the US. It is a human carcinogen, and it may also cause kidney and liver damage with long‐term exposure. The physical and chemical properties and behavior of 1,4‐Dioxane create challenges for its treatment. It is highly soluble in water and is not readily biodegradable. Read more about 1,4-Dioxane here. Wright-Pierce has experience in helping communities solve their 1,4-Dioxane issues by providing:

  • Treatability and pilot studies
  • Treatment system design
  • Construction administration
  • Funding assistance/submission of grant applications

Sample 1,4-Dioxane Projects

  • Planning/Design: As part of the design for a new WTP with sources impacted by 1,4-Dioxane, provisions were made such that a suitable treatment process could be easily incorporated for its removal after construction when/if treatment was mandated.
  • Pilot Study: Having been impacted by 1,4-Dioxane in one of its higher production wells, a Community Water Supply in Massachusetts proactively piloted an advanced oxidation process (AOP) utilizing ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide for its removal.


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