Removal of trace organic pollutants (pharmaceuticals and pesticides) and reduction of biological effects from secondary effluent by typical granular activated carbon


Residual trace organic pollutants (TOPs) and associated biological effects from secondary effluent (SE) are attracting much attention because of their safety concerns. Granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption, due to its low cost and high efficiency, is widely applied for further wastewater treatment, but its selective removals of TOPs and biological effects are poorly understood. In the present study, the surface physicochemical characteristics of four types of typical GACs were investigated, and their correlation with luminescent bacteria toxicity was discussed. Based on the biological effect control, shell GAC, with a great adsorption capacity and high functional group contents was selected for further study, including for the removal of fluorescent dissolved organic matter (DOM), 21 TOPs, and 3 biological effects. The shell GAC showed a promising property of removing fluorescent DOM and TOPs. The total concentration of 21 detected TOPs, including 12 pesticides and 9 pharmaceuticals, achieved 82% removal when 30 g/L shell GACs was added. Individual chemicals removal by GAC adsorption was not well described by an individual parameter (e.g., logD, molecular size, charge, functional groups), but rather by a variety of physical and chemical interactions among TOPs, DOM, and GAC. The biological effects from SE were mainly caused by TOPs and DOM. Hence, shell GACs also showed high removal efficiencies of luminescent bacteria toxicity, genotoxicity, and photosynthetic inhibition effect. The removal mechanisms of the three biological effects from SE were deeply discussed. Therefore, the GAC treatment is considered to be one of the most suitable options to ensure the ecological safety of discharged wastewater, because it can effectively control DOM, TOPs, and associated biological effects.

Authors: Lei Tang, Xiaoyan Y Ma, Yongkun Wang, Shiying Zhang, Kai Zheng, Xiaochang C Wang, Yu Lin
; Full Source: The Science of the total environment 2020 Aug 10;749:141611. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141611.