Understanding the role of sorption and biodegradation in the removal of organic micropollutants by membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) with different biofilm thickness

Claudia Sanchez-Huerta, Julie Sanchez Medina, Changzhi Wang, Luca Fortunato, Pei Ying Hong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

The role of sorption and biodegradation in a membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) were investigated for the removal of 10 organic micropollutants (OMPs) including endocrine disruptors and pharmaceutical active compounds. The influence of the biofilm thickness on the mechanisms of removal was analyzed via kinetic test at three different stages. At all biofilm stages, biodegradation was demonstrated to dominate the removal of selected OMPs. Higher OMPs rates of removal via biodegradation (Kbiol) were achieved when biofilm increased its thickness from (stage T1) 0.26 mm, to (stage T2) 0.58 mm and (stage T3) 1.03 mm. At stage T1 of biofilm, heterotrophs contribute predominantly to OMPs degradation. Hydrophilic compounds removal (i.e., acetaminophen) continue to be driven by heterotrophic bacteria at the next stages of biofilm thickness. However, for medium hydrophobic neutral and charged OMPs, the combined action of heterotrophic and enriched nitrifying activity at stages T2 and T3 enhanced the overall removal. A degradation pathway based on heterotrophic activity for acetaminophen and combined action of nitrifiers-heterotrophs for estrone was proposed based on identified metabolites. Although biodegradation dominated the removal of most OMPs, sorption was also observed to be essential in the removal of biologically recalcitrant and lipophilic compounds like triclosan. Furthermore, sorption capacity of apolar compound was enhanced as the biofilm thickness grew and increased in EPS protein fraction. Microbial analysis confirmed the higher abundance of nitrifying and denitrifying activity at stage T3 of biofilm, which not only facilitated near complete ammonium removal but also enhanced degradation of OMPs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119935
JournalWater research
Volume236
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

Keywords

  • Biodegradation
  • Biofilm process
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Nitrifying biodegradation
  • Sorption
  • Wastewater treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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