Micropollutants (MP) are only partly removed from municipal wastewater by nutrient removal plants and are seen increasingly as a threat to aquatic ecosystems and to the safety of drinking water resources. The addition of powder activated carbon (PAC) is a promising technology to complement municipal nutrient removal plants in order to achieve a significant reduction of MPs and ecotoxicity in receiving waters. This paper presents the salient outcomes of pilot- and full-scale applications of PAC addition in different flow schemes for micropollutant removal in municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The sorption efficiency of PAC is reduced with increasing dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Adequate treatment of secondary effluent with 5–10 g DOC m−3 requires 10–20 g PAC m−3 of effluent. Counter-current use of PAC by recycling waste PAC from post-treatment in a contact tank with an additional clarifier to the biology tank improved the overall MP removal by 10 to 50% compared with effluent PAC application alone. A dosage of 15 g PAC m−3 to a full-scale flocculation sand filtration system and recycling the backwash water to the biology tank showed similar MP elimination. Due to an adequate mixing regime and the addition of adapted flocculants, a good retention of the fine fraction of the PAC in the deep-bed filter were observed (1–3 g TSS m−3; TSS: total suspended solids). With double use of PAC, only half of the PAC was required to reach MP removal efficiencies similar to the direct single dosage of PAC to the biology tank. Overall, the application of PAC in WWTPs seems to be an adequate and feasible technology for efficient MP elimination (>80%) from wastewater comparable with post ozonation.

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