The presence of anionic micropollutants, such as bromate, perchlorate and nitrate, in drinking water supplies represents a risk for public health. This work evaluates the applicability of the ion exchange membrane bioreactor (IEMB) concept for their removal. The IEMB concept combines the transport of anionic pollutants, through a dense mono-anion permselective membrane, with their simultaneous biodegradation to harmless products by a suitable microbial culture in a separated biocompartment. The transport of the pollutant counter-ions (anions) is governed by the Donnan equilibrium principle and, therefore, it is possible to enhance it by using a more concentrated driving counter-ion (e.g. chloride) added to the biocompartment. The IEMB process proved to selectively remove nitrate and perchlorate to concentrations below the recommended levels of 4 ppb for ClO4 and 25 ppm of NO3, from a model polluted stream containing 100 ppb of ClO4 and 60 ppm of NO3. Transport studies, made under Donnan dialysis conditions, showed bromate fluxes comparable to those obtained for nitrate under similar experimental conditions. However, the rate of biological reduction of bromate was about one order of magnitude slower than that of nitrate.

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