In this study, different pretreatment methods such as ferric chloride (FeCl3) flocculation and powdered activated carbon (PAC) adsorption were evaluated in terms of their capability in removing effluent organic matter (EfOM) and the characteristics of the foulants on the NF membranes. A detailed experiment was conducted with two NF membranes (NTR 729HF with MWCO 700 daltons and LF 10 with MWCO 200 daltons). With pretreatment, the concentration of organic matter on the membranes decreased to 5.671×10−3 (NTR 729HF) and 4.940×10−3 (LF 10) mg EfOM/cm2 of membrane from 6.372×10−3 (NTR 729HF) and 4.979×10−3 (LF 10) mg EfOM/cm2 of membrane. The MW of the solute fraction of biologically treated sewage effluent (BTSE) ranged from 250 daltons to about 3573 (the most important being 250–520 daltons). The weight-averaged MW values of the foulants on the NTR 729HF membrane reduced from 304 daltons without pre-treatment to 208 daltons with pretreatment. In the case of EfOM, the small molecules (MW 300 to 500 daltons) are mainly responsible for the membrane fouling. Thus, the MW distribution of organic matter in the effluent and in the foulant can be used as a representative tool to evaluate the efficiency of pretreatment and NF and in the selection of their operating conditions.

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