Comparison of two PAC/UF processes for the removal of micropollutants from wastewater treatment plant effluent: process performance and removal efficiency

Jonas Löwenberg, Armin Zenker, Martin Baggenstos, Gerhard Koch, Christian Kazner, Thomas Wintgens
Water Research 2014 June 1, 56: 26-36
Two hybrid membrane processes combining powdered activated carbon (PAC) adsorption with ultrafiltration (UF) were investigated regarding operational performance and efficiency to remove organic micropollutants from municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent. A pressurized PAC/UF (pPAC/UF) and a submerged PAC/UF (sPAK/UF) system were operated continuously over a period of six months. Both UF membrane systems showed good compatibility with the application of PAC showing no abrasion or other negative impacts. The pPAC/UF system reached permeability values up to 290 L/(m² h bar) at high fluxes of 80 L/(m² h) compared to the sPAC/UF with a permeability of up to 200 L/(m² h bar) at fluxes of up to 23 L/(m² h). Surface analysis of both membranes with scanning electron microscopy revealed no membrane deterioration after the six-month period of operation. On the surface of the pressurized membrane the formation of a PAC layer was observed, which may have contributed to the high permeability by forming a protective coating. Five micropollutants, i.e. sulfamethoxazole, carbamazepine, mecoprop, diclofenac and benzotriazole in ambient effluent concentrations were investigated. Both PAC/UF systems removed 60-95% of the selected micropollutants at a dosage of 20 mg PAC/L and 4 mg Fe(3+)/L. However, extreme peak loads of sulfamethoxazole with concentrations of up to 30 μg/L caused a considerable performance decrease for more than a week.

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