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The contribution of biofilm to nitrogenous disinfection by-product formation in full-scale cyclically-operated drinking water biofilters

Di Tommaso, Caroline, Taylor-Edmonds, Liz, Andrews, Susan A., Andrews, Robert C.
Water research 2019 v.155 pp. 403-409
N-nitrosodimethylamine, adenosine triphosphate, bacteria, biofilm, biofilters, biofiltration, biomass, byproducts, carbon, cation exchange resins, disinfection, drinking water, fluorescence emission spectroscopy, liquid chromatography, phosphates, polymers, proteins, water
Biofiltration has been shown to be effective for disinfection by-product (DBP) precursor control, however few studies have considered its role in the potential formation of DBPs. Biofilm is composed of heterogeneous bacteria as well as extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). The objective of this study was to determine the contribution of biofilm-related materials such as EPS to form nitrogen-containing DBPs upon chloramination, and to determine the influence of cyclical (scheduled on-off) biofilter operation on DBP precursor removal. Biologically active media was sampled from a full-scale biofilter operating under cold-water conditions (3.6 ± 0.5 °C) and extracted using a cation exchange resin into a phosphate buffer solution. Biomass concentrations, as determined using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) measurements, remained stable at 298 ± 55 ng ATP/g media over the trial period. N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and haloacetonitrile (HAN4) formation potential (FP) tests conducted under uniform formation conditions (UFC) using extracted biofilm yielded 0.80 ± 0.27 ng NDMA/g media and 18.7 ± 3.3 ng dichloroacetonitrile (DCAN)/g media. Further analyses of extracted biofilm using fluorescence spectroscopy and liquid chromatography-organic carbon detection indicated the presence of proteins above 20 kDa and humic-like substances. Extracted proteins (93.5 ± 8.1 μg/g media) correlated well (R = 0.90) with UV 280 measurements, indicating that spectrophotometry may serve as a valuable tool to quantify proteins in extracted biofilms. While substances in biofilms can serve as NDMA and DCAN precursors, the full-scale cyclically-operated biofilter that was examined did not show release of NDMA precursors during start-up following stagnation periods of 6 h or more. These biofilters consistently removed 6.9 ± 4.3 ng/L of NDMA precursors; typical NDMA UFC-FP of biofilter effluent was 8.5 ± 2.6 ng/L.