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New approach to reducing emerging compounds in water

Emerging compounds are all manner of unwanted substances that seep into the water supply. Because they are a risk to humans and the environment, reducing these emissions is crucial. This requires new strategies and technical solutions. TNO is helping to develop new techniques that reduce the emission of unwanted substances such as plant protection products and medicines.

Some forms of water pollution have an obvious source, but there are also many substances, from a range of unidentifiable sources, that accumulate slowly but surely in surface water. Examples of these substances are priority substances, nanoparticles, medicines, plant protection products, endocrine disruptors and microbeads. These seep into the surface water through the sewage system and groundwater, through the action of traffic, arable and livestock farming, construction and health care. Although more research is required into the harmful effects, it is likely that emerging compounds pose a long-term risk to health. That is why, in the context of the Water Framework Directive, the Dutch government is taking action to reduce these emissions. TNO is contributing by conducting research and developing new techniques to combat pollution caused by medicines and plant protection products.

Plant protection products

In glasshouse horticulture, many different types of plant protection products are used. Some of these end up in the surface water. In order to reduce this harmful effect, TNO has been working with Brabant (a horticultural development company) to research two techniques: H2O2/UV and adsorption.The research has shown that the type of product used will determine which of the two techniques is most effective. In the case of 'cocktails', the composition and required end concentration determine whether one or both techniques have to be used. This information enables the horticulture sector to tackle the emission of plant protection products more successfully.

Health risks for our drinking water

The level of medicine residues and hormone-disrupting substances in our drinking water is increasing (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, April 2013). These can pose a health risk. TNO develops technologies that destroy these substances or separate them from drinking water, and tackle the problem as close to the source as possible. We offer two strategies for this:

  • reuse of wastewater for purposes (i.e. not drinking water) that do not require the removal of the substances from the water
  • removal or destruction of the substances, as with the techniques Peroxide (H2O2/UV) and adsorption using the moving-bed method or hybrid membrane-adsorption processes.

When we develop new techniques, preventing the formation of new unwanted substances is a priority. In this way, TNO is helping to provide cleaner water that is safer for people and the environment.

Ir. Raymond Creusen

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Ir. Raymond Creusen

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