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Removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products by two-stage biofiltration for drinking water treatment

Fu, Jie, Lee, Wan-Ning, Coleman, Clark, Nowack, Kirk, Carter, Jason, Huang, Ching-Hua
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.664 pp. 240-248
activated carbon, adverse effects, biofilters, biofiltration, byproducts, chlorination, coagulation, disinfection, drinking water, drinking water treatment, drugs, effluents, nitrogen, personal care products, quantitative structure-activity relationships, regression analysis, risk, sand
Contamination of drinking water with pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) is an issue of health concerns. To effectively control the level of PPCPs in drinking water, a pilot study employing two parallel trains of two-stage biofiltration, i.e., a sand/anthracite (SA) biofilter coupled with a biologically-active granular activated carbon (GAC) post-filter contactor, was conducted as a post-treatment after coagulation in a drinking water treatment plant. Results showed the biofiltration process could effectively remove PPCPs with an average removal of 53.4%, where the GAC contactor played the dominant role to remove 48.1% of the total PPCPs. The molecular properties determined the removability of individual PPCPs, i.e., smaller molecules with simpler structure connectivity were more likely to be removed. Based on the quantitative structure-property relationships (QSPRs) analysis, a simple regression model was proposed to predict the removability of each PPCP across the biofiltration process. The drinking water equivalent level (DWEL) quotient method was developed to assess the health risks of detected PPCPs in water samples. The biofiltration process showed efficient capacity to reduce the health risks of PPCPs with an average removal of 79%, and the PPCPs in the effluents generally would not pose adverse health effects. Pearson correlation analysis explored the possible role of nitrogenous PPCPs (N-PPCPs) as the precursors of nitrogenous disinfection byproducts (N-DBPs) in drinking waters. Aromatic nitrogen in PPCPs was found to be a significant descriptor for the formation potential of trichloroacetonitrile (TCAN). In addition, it was found that pre-filter chlorination could slightly improve the biofiltration of PPCPs.