Peoria homeowners turn to high-tech filter to remove ‘forever’ chemicals from water

EPA suggests guidance for other ways to keep PFAs out water system
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - BL Plumbing owner Shannon Lamie did something he’s never done before as a part of his plumbing business. He installed a filter meant to catch persistent particles known as “forever chemicals.”

Tiny plastic particles can come off common household materials, get in the water and then never leave. They can’t break down, they can’t decompose. By current measures, they last ‘forever,” earning the name.

Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals are the technical names, also known as PFAs and PFOs. They can be found on nonstick pans and waterproof materials. They’ve found a place on household materials for decades but continue to be unregulated by the Illinois EPA.

A pair of homeowners in northern Peoria took notice and asked Lamie to help filter them out. Lamie had never heard of PFAs before his customers called. He started researching, found this model of whole-house filter, and spent most of Wendesday installing the new device.

“There’s not a lot of people that know about this right now,” Lamie said. “This is going to be an eye-opener maybe, to say the least.”

Lamie said it was an eye-opener for him personally. As a plumber, he and his company work to keep water safe for their customers. He relies on testing data to ensure water quality. Since the forever chemicals aren’t regulated, not everyone tests to find them in water.

Illinois American, Peoria’s main water provider, tests for PFAs. When 25News reported on the chemical in July, Illinois American data shows PFA levels are generally below levels that would cause concern. However, since they don’t break down, there isn’t anywhere else for them to go.

“It’s something that may have been there for a long time and we never knew about it,” Lamie said.

The new filter cost the homeowners over a thousand dollars, and it’s one of the few filters on the market Lamie found that could remove PFAs out of a home’s entire water system.

The federal EPA does suggest other ways to get forever chemicals out of drinking water, recommending carbon, ion and high-pressure treatments. These treatments are often available for use in one spot, like a singular water faucet.

Carbon treatments are the “most studied” forever chemical treatment according to the EPA. Carbon is a porous material, which allows it to catch particles of all types.

“[Carbon treatment] can be 100% effective for a period of time, depending on the type of carbon used, the depth of the bed of carbon, flow rate of the water, the specific PFAS you need to remove, temperature, and the degree and type of organic matter as well as other contaminants, or constituents, in the water,” EPA researcher Thomas Speth said.

Ion treatments use the electrical charge of the molecules that make up the chemical to pull them out of the water. They can also be fully effective for certain periods of time if the right materials are used.

Lastly, high-pressure treatments, also referred to as reverse osmosis, filter chemicals through a film designed to catch “hard” chemicals in the water. It runs into problems when a reverse osmosis treatment has to filter out all the water in a house. It gathers too much filtered waste to keep a steady water pressure.

Whole-house filters filter water for washing machines, dishwashers, showers, and more.