Removal of haloacetic acids from swimming pool water by reverse osmosis and nanofiltration

Linyan Yang, Qianhong She, Man Pun Wan, Rong Wang, Victor W.-C. Chang, Chuyang Y. Tang

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Recent studies report high concentrations of haloacetic acids (HAAs), a prevalent class of toxic disinfection by-products, in swimming pool water (SPW). We investigated the removal of 9 HAAs by four commercial reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) membranes. Under typical SPW conditions (pH 7.5 and 50 mM ionic strength), HAA rejections were >60% for NF270 with molecular weight cut-off (MWCO) equal to 266 Da and equal or higher than 90% for XLE, NF90 and SB50 with MWCOs of 96, 118 and 152 Da, respectively, as a result of the combined effects of size exclusion and charge repulsion. We further included 7 neutral hydrophilic surrogates as molecular probes to resolve the rejection mechanisms. In the absence of strong electrostatic interaction (e.g., pH 3.5), the rejection data of HAAs and surrogates by various membranes fall onto an identical size-exclusion (SE) curve when plotted against the relative-size parameter, i.e., the ratio of molecular radius over membrane pore radius. The independence of this SE curve on molecular structures and membrane properties reveals that the relative-size parameter is a more fundamental SE descriptor compared to molecular weight. An effective molecular size with the Stokes radius accounting for size exclusion and the Debye length accounting for electrostatic interaction was further used to evaluate the rejection. The current study provides valuable insights on the rejection of trace contaminants by RO/NF membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-125
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Empirical formula
  • Haloacetic acids
  • Nanofiltration
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Swimming pool water

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