Seasonal variations in fate and removal of trace organic chemical contaminants while operating a full-scale membrane bioreactor

Trang Trinh, Ben van den Akker, Heather M. Coleman, Richard M. Stuetz, Jorg E. Drewes, Pierre Le-Clech, Stuart J. Khan

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74 Citations (Scopus)
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Trace organic chemical (TrOC) contaminants are of concern for finished water from water recycling schemes because of their potential adverse environmental and public health effects. Understanding the impacts of seasonal variations on fate and removal of TrOCs is important for proper operation, risk assessment and management of treatment systems for water recycling such as membrane bioreactors (MBRs). Accordingly, this study investigated the fate and removal of a wide range of TrOCs through a full-scale MBR plant during summer and winter seasons. TrOCs included 12 steroidal hormones, 3 xeno-estrogens, 2 pesticides and 23 pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Seasonal differences in the mechanisms responsible for removing some of the TrOCs were evident. In particular the contribution of biotransformation and biomass adsorption to the overall removal of estrone, bisphenol A, 17β-estradiol and triclosan were consistently different between the two seasons. Substantially higher percentage removal via biotransformation was observed during the summer sampling period, which compensated for a reduction in removal attributed to biomass adsorption. The opposite was observed during winter, where the contribution of biotransformation to the overall removal of these TrOCs had decreased, which was offset by an improvement in biomass adsorption. The exact mechanisms responsible for this shift are unknown, however are likely to be temperature related as warmer temperatures can lower sorption efficiency, yet enhance biotransformation of these TrOCs
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-183
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Early online date24 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Apr 2016


  • Membrane bioreactors
  • Removal mechanisms
  • Seasonal variations
  • Trace organic chemicals
  • Wastewater treatment processes
  • Water recycling


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