Temperature-dependent mechanisms of DOM removal by biological activated carbon filters
Journal article, 2019
Seasonal variability in the removal of dissolved organic matter (DOM) by drinking water biological activated carbon (BAC) filters is often attributed to temperature changes. However, it can be rather difficult to directly relate temperature to treatment efficiency at full scale due to seasonal variations in other influential parameters like DOM concentration and character, and microbial activity. Furthermore, processes in BAC filters include adsorption, desorption and biodegradation within biofilms while each respond differently to temperature. This study aimed to decouple these processes by studying the removal of various DOM fractions from coagulated and settled drinking water when in contact with aged (>3 years) BAC filter material at different water temperatures. DOM removal was measured as changes in dissolved organic carbon (DOC), ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (UV254) and fluorescence. Under the particular experimental conditions there was little evidence of biological removal; instead, removal of DOM fractions emitting at longer wavelengths ("humic-like", >430 nm) was consistent with chemisorption, removal of DOM emitting at intermediate wavelengths ("humic-like", 390-420 nm) was consistent with physisorption, and multiple mechanisms were indicated for "protein-like" (<380 nm) DOM. Non-biological mechanisms of DOM removal by aged BAC filters are often assumed to be unimportant; however, these results suggest they are important for some DOM fractions, especially during periods of reduced microbial activity.