Engineers in drinking water treatment plants which employ activated carbon adsorption followed by microfiltration (MF) often ask why the removal ratio of compounds causing musty odors in real plants is smaller than that achieved in laboratory experiments. We investigated whether this difference in removal ratios was due to the release of intracellular geosmin under high pressure from cyanobacteria coexisting on the filter membrane surface. We conducted batch pressurization tests with a cyanobacterium-containing solution, laboratory-scale MF experiments, and pilot-scale experiments designed to remove both the geosmin and cyanobacteria in a hybrid system which used powdered activated carbon adsorption, coagulation, and ceramic microfiltration. Release of intracellular geosmin from cyanobacteria accumulated on the membrane surface was observed in both the laboratory-scale MF experiments and the pilot-scale experiments, but not in the batch pressurization tests. Geosmin was still observed in the MF permeate when the hybrid system was operated with commercially available powdered activated carbon (PAC), and its concentration increased with filtration time owing to the continued release of geosmin. In contrast, operation of the hybrid system with micro-ground PAC completely removed the geosmin.

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