Requirements and solutions for PFAS in the environment

PFAS can be precisely determined using state-of-the-art equipment at TZW's laboratory.

The chemical substance group of perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl compounds (PFAS) has entered the political and public debate. These synthetic chemicals comprise more than 10,000 different substances that are used in many products. PFAS are water-, grease- and dirt-repellent and very stable. Due to their high persistence, they are also referred to as "forever chemicals". The amended Drinking Water Ordinance (Trinkwasserverordnung) introduced limit values for PFAS in drinking water in Germany. Numerous cases of contamination at industrial sites, airports or in connection with agricultural land show that PFAS can lead to far-reaching environmental problems.

In recent years, TZW: DVGW-Technologiezentrum Wasser (German Water Centre) has built up extensive expertise in PFAS analysis, water treatment and contaminated sites. New and refined methods are needed to measure and analyse this group of substances. If PFAS are released into the environment, specialised treatment processes are required to remove them from the water. Sites contaminated with PFAS can be treated using innovative concepts.

PFAS analysis for water, soil and other environments
The German Drinking Water Ordinance sets a cumulative limit value of 0.1 µg/L for the 20 PFAS compounds listed there, which will come into force on 12 January 2026. In addition, a further cumulative limit value of 0.02 µg/L applies to four specific PFAS compounds, which comes into force on 12 January 2028. Not only can the standard compounds be reliably determined at these low concentrations at TZW. We also have the analytical prerequisites to precisely analyse over 50 compounds and, in particular, very mobile and short-chain substances. In addition to drinking water and water, we also analyse solid samples such as soil and plants. 

Treatment and removal of PFAS in drinking water
If PFAS are present in the raw water for drinking water treatment, the water supplier must take extensive measures to remove them. Due to the wide range of substances, various treatment concepts must then be specifically tested to solve the individual case. This includes the use of different activated carbons for PFAS removal depending on the PFAS contamination present. The design and operation of membrane plants, including the post-treatment of concentrates, should also be considered as a possible solution. The experts at TZW are also working on new developments and possibilities for the use of ion exchangers and clay minerals for PFAS removal.

Process concepts for sites contaminated with PFAS
For sites contaminated with PFAS, our experts analyse and evaluate the potential for displacement. The possibility of PFAS reduction in the saturated and unsaturated soil zone is also investigated and the reaction pathway of microbiological transformation is determined. Environmental monitoring programmes can also be set up and the formation potential of PFAS from precursor substances can be investigated.

Comprehensive expertise at TZW
TZW has been involved with the PFAS substance group from an early stage and has carried out extensive research in this area. In addition, numerous technical and scientific expertises have been prepared for clients from various sectors such as water supply, authorities, industry and infrastructure. The topics of transport of PFAS contamination in groundwater, mass transport of PFAS from contaminated soils into crops and the release of PFAS from materials are therefore also part of TZW’s portfolio.

Flyer „PFAS in der Umwelt. Anforderungen und Lösungen“ (in German, pdf-file)

Current research projects on the topic at TZW
PFClean - Innovative modular system for sustainable reduction of PFAS contaminants from soil and groundwater
ZeroPM - Zero Pollution of persistent and mobile substances 
KapilloPFAS - PFAS removal using nanofiltration