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Removal characteristics of microplastics by Fe-based coagulants during drinking water treatment

Ma, Baiwen, Xue, Wenjing, Ding, Yanyan, Hu, Chengzhi, Liu, Huijuan, Qu, Jiuhui
Journal of environmental sciences (China) 2019 v.78 pp. 267-275
adsorption, coagulants, coagulation, drinking water treatment, fouling, freshwater, iron, marine environment, microplastics, pH, particle size, salts, ultrafiltration
Microplastics have caused great concern worldwide recently due to their ubiquitous presence within the marine environment. Up to now, most attention has been paid to their sources, distributions, measurement methods, and especially their eco-toxicological effects. With microplastics being increasingly detected in freshwater, it is urgently necessary to evaluate their behaviors during coagulation and ultrafiltration (UF) processes. Herein, the removal behavior of polyethylene (PE), which is easily suspended in water and is the main component of microplastics, was investigated with commonly used Fe-based salts. Results showed that although higher removal efficiency was induced for smaller PE particles, low PE removal efficiency (below 15%) was observed using the traditional coagulation process, and was little influenced by water characteristics. In comparison to solution pH, PAM addition played a more important role in increasing the removal efficiency, especially anionic PAM at high dosage (with efficiency up to 90.9%). The main reason was ascribed to the dense floc formation and high adsorption ability because of the positively charged Fe-based flocs under neutral conditions. For ultrafiltration, although PE particles could be completely rejected, slight membrane fouling was caused owing to their large particle size. The membrane flux decreased after coagulation; however, the membrane fouling was less severe than that induced by flocs alone due to the heterogeneous nature of the cake layer caused by PE, even at high dosages of Fe-based salts. Based on the behavior exhibited during coagulation and ultrafiltration, we believe these findings will have potential application in drinking water treatment.