The need to prioritize persistent and mobile substances for prevention and removal, before exposure is too wide spread, or before risks are too great, is clear. Costs related to identification, screening and remediation of sites contaminated with PFAS across Europe is around €10-20 billion per annum. This cost only covers immediate interventions and does not account for costs related to, for example, increased healthcare demands, ecological damage, property loss and impacts on the agricultural sector. In such cases, the overall cost to the EEA could be in the region of €52-84 billion per annum. Exacerbating the concern of exposure, is the fact that the most mobile of PM substances can break through activated carbon (AC) filters, and several of the more persistent substances are not amenable to advanced water treatment technologies such as ozonation. Given that these costs represent only a partial removal and that the methods are resource intensive, there is an urgent need to identify sustainable treatment technologies able to remove persistent and mobile substances. In particular water used in drinking water production should be investigated as the consumption of water is one of the main mechanism that increases the risk for human health from persistent and mobile substances, as well as waste water and sludge which represent one of the main emission sources of persistent and mobile substances to the environment.
According to Eurostat 2016 data, more than 6.5 million tonnes of sewage sludge are produced in the EU-27 countries. Of this sludge, a third is applied to agricultural land, a third composted and a sixth sent to landfills. All of these activities represent direct environmental persistent and mobile substance exposure pathways in addition to direct wastewater emissions.
Technological advances are needed to be able to remove more persistent and mobile substances from water and sludge. However, the choice of method should also be based on an evaluation of technical and economic costs and benefits, as well as net environmental effect. Ideally, persistent and mobile substances will be removed sustainably before emissions are widespread or they reach drinking water. ZeroPM research to advance such ideals on next generation removal options for prioritized persistent and mobile substances in water and sludge supports the fourth hypothesis:
ZeroPM’s hypothesis – By considering the environmental, economic and social costs and benefits of next generation removal technologies for persistent and mobile substances, the limit of sustainable removal will be found.
To prevent regrettable remediation, removal options of persistent and mobile substances will be interlinked with prevention and prioritization research in the following work package: