A two-year survey of adsorbable organic halide (AOX) removals was conducted for eight full-scale wastewater treatment systems operated at pulp mills in North America. The resulting AOX database, one of the most comprehensive currently available, supports several significant findings.
AOX removals averaged 46% for the two activated sludge systems and 34% for the five aerated stabilization basins (ASBs). Both the activated sludge facilities and ASBs averaged removing over half of the influent low molecular weight AOX. The average removal of high molecular weight AOX varied among mill sites from 1% to 47% and was not correlated with the type of treatment process used. The best-performing treatment facility, located at a sulfite mill receiving nearly 100% hardwood furnish and using an activated sludge treatment system, was able to consistently remove 53% of the AOX, 62% of the low molecular weight AOX, and 47% of the high molecular weight AOX in bleaching wastewaters. Factors responsible for this high performance are not currently understood. Effluent AOX was strongly correlated (R2 = 0.90) to the influent loading for ASBs. In-mill improvements such as the use of oxygen and peroxide as well as chlorine dioxide substitution reduce influent AOX loading, apparently with minimal impact on treatment plant removal efficiency.