Removal of Total Organic Carbon and Emerging Contaminants in an Advanced Water Treatment process using Ozone-BAC-GAC

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Virginia Tech


Indirect potable reuse has been practiced with the potential to enhance sustainability of water resources if planned accordingly. Depending on the pretreatment implemented for potable reuse, emerging contaminants; such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, industrial solvents, bacterial/viral pathogens, and disinfection byproducts, might be present in source water and difficult to remove via various water treatment technologies. Low molecular weight organic compounds are especially challenging to remove and may require treatment optimization. The overarching purpose of this study was to demonstrate the feasibility of a carbon-based advanced treatment train; including ozonation, biological activated carbon (BAC) filtration and granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption to achieve water quality suitable for potable reuse and assess the impact of a range of operating conditions for emerging contaminant removal at pilot-scale.

The results from this study showed that carbon-based treatment train is equally effective as more commonly used, and more costly, membrane-based treatment trains in terms of pathogen and disinfection byproduct removal. A multiple-barrier approach was implemented, with each treatment stage capable of removing total organic carbon (TOC). GAC was responsible for removal of most of the TOC and emerging contaminants and this removal depended on the number of bed volumes of water processed by GAC. Empty bed contact time was another factor that dictated the extent of TOC removal in the BAC and GAC units as the carbon media was exhausted. Among the emerging contaminants detected, sucralose, iohexol and acesulfame-k were present in the highest concentrations in the influent and were detected consistently in the GAC effluent, thus making them good indicators of treatment performance. Apart from organics removal, BAC played an important role in removal of nutrients, such as ammonia via nitrification.

N-Nitrosodimethlyamine (NDMA) was formed in the treatment process by ozone, but was shown to be effectively removed by BAC. EBCT, temperature, ozone dose and presence of pre-oxidants, such as monochloramine, played an important role in determining the amount of NDMA removed. These factors can be further optimized to improve NDMA removal. Sodium bisulfite was used for dechlorinating monochloramine residual post ozone. Nitrification in the BAC was shown to be inhibited by excess of sodium bisulfite dose. Thus monochloramine residual needs to be dechlorinated with sodium bisulfite to help with NDMA degradation but at the same time the sodium bisulfite dose needs to be monitored to allow complete nitrification in the BAC. 1,4-dioxane, another contaminant of emerging concern, was monitored in the treatment process. Biodegradation of 1,4-dioxane was enhanced via addition of tetrahydrofuran as a growth substrate. Biodegradation of 1,4-dioxane can help reduce energy and capital costs associated with advanced oxidation processes that are currently used for 1,4-dioxane removal. Further, relying on biodegradation for the removal of 1,4-dioxane can help avoid the formation of disinfection byproducts associated with advanced oxidation processes such as ozone with peroxide or ultraviolet disinfection with peroxide.

The results from this project can be useful for designing potable reuse treatment trains and provide a baseline for removal of organic carbon and emerging contaminants. The conventionally used reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration approach is useful for organics removal in areas where the rationale behind potable reuse is water scarcity. Operational difficulties encountered during this study can prove to be important as this treatment process is scaled up to treat a total of 120 MGD of water for managed aquifer recharge. Overall the lessons learnt from this study can give a better understanding of a carbon-based treatment and further the advancement of reuse projects that have drivers other than water scarcity.



Indirect potable reuse, ozone, biologically activated carbon filtration, granular activated carbon adsorption, contaminants of emerging concern, NDMA, 1,4-dioxane