Dissolved organic matter (DOM) and phosphate in reclaimed water promote microbial growth in distribution systems and deteriorate water quality. In this study, we tested ferrihydrite (Fh) for its potential to remove both DOM and phosphate in order to control bacterial regrowth. Adsorption kinetics on Fh revealed that phosphate has a higher affinity with Fh than has DOM. The removal efficiency of DOM increased at lower pH. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) spectra of freeze-dried Fh showed that adsorbed DOM was rich in carboxyl/hydroxyl functional groups, indicating anion exchange at Fh surfaces to be a major mechanism, especially at low pH. Fh preferentially removed DOM greater than 1,000 Da. Specific ultraviolet absorption (SUVA) at 254 nm and DOC results suggest Fh adsorption removes more hydrophilic DOM than the coagulation–sand filtration process. Reduction of bacterial regrowth potential (BRP) by Fh was comparable to that of the coagulation–sand filtration process, which indicated that phosphorus was not the rate-limiting factor of microbial growth.

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