The addition of powdered activated carbon (PAC) to activated sludge treatment systems to enhance removal of specific toxic organic compounds from wastewater was evaluated. Nine organic compounds encompassing a range of solubility, volatility, biodegradability, and adsorptive properties were studied. Kate and equilibrium investigations were conducted to quantify the removal mechanisms of volatilization, biodegradation, biosorption, and carbon adsorption. Results from steady-state bioreactor studies showed that the addition of less than 100 mg/ℓ powdered activated carbon to the influent did not enhance the removal of the biodegradable target compounds investigated: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, o-xylene, chlorobenzene, and nitrobenzene. Significantly improved removals of the poorly degradable and non-biodegradable compounds 1,2-dichlorobenzene, 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene, and lindane occurred at influent powdered carbon concentrations in the 12.5 to 25 mg/ℓ range. Influent powdered carbon concentrations of 100 mg/ℓ effected overall removals of greater than 90%. The addition of powdered activated carbon not only reduced effluent concentrations but also reduced the amounts of the volatile compounds stripped to the atmosphere.

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