The fate of effluent organic matter (EfOM) during groundwater recharge was investigated by studying the removal behavior of four bulk organic carbon fractions isolated from a secondary effluent: Hydrophilic organic matter (HPI), hydrophobic acids (HPO-A), colloidal organic matter (OM), and soluble microbial products (SMPs). Short-term removal of the bulk organic fractions during soil infiltration was simulated in biologically active soil columns. Results revealed that the four organic fractions showed a significantly different behavior with respect to biological removal. HPI and colloidal OM were prone to biological removal during initial soil infiltration (0-30 cm) and supported soil microbial biomass growth in the infiltrative surface. Additionally, colloidal OM was partly removed by physical adsorption or filtration. HPO-A and SMPs reacted recalcitrant towards biological degradation as indicated by low soil biomass activity responses. Adsorbability assessment of the biologically refractory portions of the fractions onto powered activated carbon (PAC) indicated that physical removal is not likely to play a significantly role in further diminishing recalcitrant HPO-A, HPI and SMPs during longer travel times in the subsurface.

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