Study of a large scale powdered activated carbon pilot: Removals of a wide range of emerging and priority micropollutants from wastewater treatment plant effluents

R Mailler, J Gasperi, Y Coquet, S Deshayes, S Zedek, C Cren-Olivé, N Cartiser, V Eudes, A Bressy, E Caupos, R Moilleron, G Chebbo, V Rocher
Water Research 2015 April 1, 72: 315-30
The efficacy of a fluidized powdered activated carbon (PAC) pilot (CarboPlus(®)) was studied in both nominal (total nitrification + post denitrification) and degraded (partial nitrification + no denitrification) configuration of the Seine Centre WWTP (Colombes, France). In addition to conventional wastewater parameters 54 pharmaceuticals and hormones (PhPHs) and 59 other emerging pollutants were monitored in influents and effluents of the pilot. Thus, the impacts of the WWTP configuration, the process operation and the physico-chemical properties of the studied compounds were assessed in this article. Among the 26 PhPHs quantified in nominal WWTP configuration influents, 8 have high dissolved concentrations (>100 ng/L), 11 have an intermediary concentration (10-100 ng/L) and 7 are quantified below 10 ng/L. Sulfamethoxazole is predominant (about 30% of the sum of the PhPHs). Overall, 6 PhPHs are poorly to moderately removed (<60%), such as ibuprofen, paracetamol or estrone, while 9 are very well removed (>80%), i.e. beta blockers, carbamazepine or trimethoprim, and 11 are well eliminated (60-80%), i.e. diclofenac, naproxen or sulfamethoxazole. In degraded WWTP configuration, higher levels of organic matter and higher concentrations of most pollutants are observed. Consequently, most PhPHs are substantially less removed in percentages but the removed flux is higher. Thus, the PAC dose required to achieve a given removal percentage is higher in degraded WWTP configuration. For the other micropollutants (34 quantified), artificial sweeteners and phthalates are found at particularly high concentrations in degraded WWTP configuration influents, up to μg/L range. Only pesticides, bisphenol A and parabens are largely eliminated (50-95%), while perfluorinated acids, PAHs, triclosan and sweeteners are not or weakly removed (<50%). The remaining compounds exhibit a very variable fate from campaign to campaign. The fresh PAC dose was identified as the most influencing operation parameter and is strongly correlated to performances. Charge and hydrophobicity of compounds have been recognized as crucial for the micropollutant adsorption on PAC, as well as the molecular weight. Finally, a PAC dose of 10 mg/L allows an average removal of 72-80% of the sum of the PhPHs in nominal WWTP configuration. The comparaison of the results with those from the scarce other studies tends to indicate that an extrapolation of them to different PAC processes and to other WWTPs could be possible and relevant, taking into account the differences of water quality from WWTP to WWTP.

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