The occurrence and severity of cyanobacterial and algal blooms in water supplies has been increasing due to the effects of eutrophication and climate change, resulting in more frequent taste and odour (T&O) events. Conventional treatment processes have been found to be inefficient in removing the two most commonly detected algal T&O compounds, geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), though granular activated carbon (GAC) and biological activated carbon (BAC) contactors have achieved high T&O removal rates. Literature on the performance of GAC and BAC for T&O removal in full-scale treatment plants, however, is limited. This review collates and assesses pilot-scale and full-scale studies which focus on removal of geosmin and MIB, with the aim of understanding the factors which influence T&O removal and determining knowledge gaps in the use of GAC and BAC. Age and empty bed contact time (EBCT) were found to have a significant impact on GAC performance, with removal efficiency decreasing with increased age and increasing with longer EBCTs. BAC contactors have achieved higher removal rates than non-biologically active GAC contactors and were not impacted by age, EBCT and/or carbon type. From these observations, implementation of BAC for T&O removal would be favourable; however, further investigations are required to understand full-scale performance of BAC and service life modelling.

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