Hybrid processes coupling the use of powder activated carbon (PAC) with membrane filtration for drinking water production are emerging as promising alternatives to conventional technologies due to their enhanced control of dissolved contaminants. The quantification of biomass colonizing PAC is crucial for modeling, designing control strategies and improving the overall performance of these processes. The aim of this study was to examine the applicability of several common methods developed for colonized granular activated carbon (GAC) to PAC. Six analytical methods (based on the measurement of proteins, polysaccharides, heterotrophic plate counts, potential glucose respiration, bacterial ATP and a potential acetate uptake rate, which is proposed herein) were compared. The results showed that the rates of glucose respiration and of acetate consumption could be used interchangeably. Proteins were also an interesting alternative for on-site measurements. It was concluded that biological PAC-based processes sustained a level of heterotrophic activity similar to or greater than that observed in GAC biofilters.

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