COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Removal of a broad range of surfactants from municipal wastewater—comparison between membrane bioreactor and conventional activated sludge treatment

Susana González, Mira Petrovic, Damià Barceló
Chemosphere 2007, 67 (2): 335-43
17123581
Elimination of alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEO) and their degradation products (alkylphenols and alkylphenoxy carboxylates), as well as linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS) and coconut diethanol amides (CDEA), was studied in a pilot plant membrane bioreactor (MBR) working in parallel to a full-scale wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) using conventional activated sludge (CAS). In the CAS system 87% of parent long ethoxy chain NPEOs were eliminated, but their decomposition yielded persistent acidic and neutral metabolites which were poorly removed. The elimination of short ethoxy chain NPEOs (NP(1)EO and NP(2)EO) averaged 50%, whereas nonylphenoxy carboxylates (NPECs) showed an increase in concentrations with respect to the ones measured in influent samples. Nonylphenol (NP) was the only nonylphenolic compound efficiently removed (96%) in the CAS treatment. On the other hand, MBR showed good performance in removing nonylphenolic compounds with an overall elimination of 94% for the total pool of NPEO derived compounds (in comparison of 54%-overall elimination in the CAS). The elimination of individual compounds in the MBR was as follows: 97% for parent, long ethoxy chain NPEOs, 90% for short ethoxy chain NPEOs, 73% for NPECs, and 96% for NP. Consequently, the residual concentrations were in the low mug/l level or below it. LAS and CDEA showed similar elimination in the both wastewater treatment systems that were investigated, and no significant differences were observed between the two treatment processes. Nevertheless, for all studied compounds the MBR effluent concentrations were consistently lower and independent of the influent concentrations. Additionally, MBR effluent quality in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD), NH(4)(+) concentration and total suspended solids (TSS) was always superior to the ones of the CAS and also independent of the influent quality, which demonstrates high potential of MBRs in the treatment of municipal wastewaters.

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