This study evaluates the impacts of water quality from three different secondary effluents on low pressure membrane fouling. Effluent organic matter (EfOM) has been reported by previous studies as responsible for membrane fouling. However, the contribution of the different components of EfOM to membrane fouling is still not well understood. In order to improve and optimize treatment processes, characterization and quantification of the organic matter are important. The characterization methods used in this study are liquid chromatography coupled with an organic detector (LC-OCD) and excitation emission matrix fluorescence spectroscopy (EEM). A bench-scale hollow fibre membrane system was used to identify the type of fouling depending on the feed water quality. Results showed no measurable dissolved organic carbon removal by the membranes for the three secondary effluents. Biopolymers and humic-like substances found in different proportions in the three effluents were partially retained by the membranes and were identified to contribute significantly to the flux decline of the low pressure membranes. The observed fouling was determined to be reversible by hydraulic backwashing for two effluents and only by chemical cleaning for the third effluent.

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