Removal of micropollutants and reduction of biological activity in a full scale reclamation plant using ozonation and activated carbon filtration

J Reungoat, M Macova, B I Escher, S Carswell, J F Mueller, J Keller
Water Research 2010, 44 (2): 625-37
Pharmaceutical compounds are found in secondary treated effluents up to microg L(-1) levels and therefore discharged into surface waters. Since the long term effects of these compounds on the environment and human health are, to date, largely unknown, implementation of advanced treatment of wastewaters is envisaged to reduce their discharge. This is of particular relevance where surface waters are used as drinking water sources and when considering indirect potable reuse. This study aimed at assessing the removal of organic micropollutants and the concurrent reduction of their biological activity in a full scale reclamation plant treating secondary effluent. The treatment consists of 6 stages: denitrification, pre-ozonation, coagulation/flocculation/dissolved air flotation and filtration (DAFF), main ozonation, activated carbon filtration and final ozonation for disinfection. For that purpose, representative 24-hour composite samples were collected after each stage. The occurrence of 85 compounds was monitored by LC/MS-MS. A battery of 6 bioassays was also used as a complementary tool to evaluate non-specific toxicity and 5 specific toxic modes of action. Results show that, among the 54 micropollutants quantified in the influent water, 50 were removed to below their limit of quantification representing more than 90% of concentration reduction. Biological activity was reduced, depending on the specific response that was assessed, from a minimum of 62% (AhR response) to more than 99% (estrogenicity). The key processes responsible for the plant's performances were the coagulation/flocculation/DAFF, main ozonation and activated carbon filtration. The effect of these 3 processes varied from one compound or bioassay to another but their combination was almost totally responsible for the overall observed reduction. Bioassays yielded complementary information, e.g. estrogenic compounds were not detected in the secondary effluent by chemical analysis, but the samples had an estrogenic effect. The main ozonation formed oxidation by-products of the organic micropollutants but decreased the level of non-specific toxicity and other specific toxic modes of action, demonstrating that the mixture of oxidation by-products was less potent than the mixture of the parent compounds for the considered effects.

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