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Removal and transformation pathways of benzothiazole and benzotriazole in membrane bioreactors treating synthetic municipal wastewater

Kowalska, Katarzyna, Felis, Ewa, Sochacki, Adam, Bajkacz, Sylwia
Chemosphere 2019 v.227 pp. 162-171
activated sludge, aquatic environment, benzene, biodegradation, biotransformation, fouling, households, hydroxylation, industry, membrane bioreactors, methylation, microfiltration, municipal wastewater, triazoles
Lab-scale membrane bioreactors (MBRs), with aerated activated sludge and internal microfiltration module, were used for the treatment of municipal wastewater containing high, yet environmentally relevant, concentrations of benzothiazole (BT) and benzotriazole (BTA). These high production volume compounds are commonly used in the industry and households, and therefore occur ubiquitously in municipal wastewater and the aquatic environment. The aim of this study was to assess the removal of BT and BTA from synthetic municipal wastewater in MBRs and to estimate the contribution of elimination processes and to identify potential biotransformation products. The overall removal of BT and BTA was high, and after the adaptation period, it reached 99.8% and 97.2%, respectively, but recurring periods of unstable BTA removal occurred. The removal due to biotransformation was 88% for BT and 84% for BTA and the disposal with waste sludge accounted for only <1% of the removed load. The remaining fraction of the removed load of BT and BTA was attributed to be retained by phenomena associated with membrane fouling. The adaptation process was reflected in multifold increase in biodegradation kinetic coefficient (kbiol) for BT (reported for the first time) and BTA. Biodegradation was attributed to catabolic mechanism rather than to cometabolism. Hydroxylation was observed to be the main transformation reaction for BT, whereas for BTA hydroxylation, methylation and cleavage of benzene ring were noted. This study has shown the feasibility of treating municipal wastewater with high concentrations of BT and BTA in MBRs and identified potential challenges for the removal of BTA.