Journal article

Enhancement of micropollutant degradation at the outlet of small wastewater treatment plants

The aim of this work was to evaluate low-cost and easy-to-operate engineering solutions that can be added as a polishing step to small wastewater treatment plants to reduce the micropollutant load to water bodies. The proposed design combines a sand filter/constructed wetland with additional and more advanced treatment technologies (UV degradation, enhanced adsorption to the solid phase, e.g., an engineered substrate) to increase the elimination of recalcitrant compounds. The removal of five micropollutants with different physico-chemical characteristics (three pharmaceuticals: diclofenac, carbamazepine, sulfamethoxazole, one pesticide: mecoprop, and one corrosion inhibitor: benzotriazole) was studied to evaluate the feasibility of the proposed system. Separate batch experiments were conducted to assess the removal efficiency of UV degradation and adsorption. The efficiency of each individual process was substance-specific. No process was effective on all the compounds tested, although elimination rates over 80% using light expanded clay aggregate (an engineered material) were observed. A laboratory-scale flow-through setup was used to evaluate interactions when removal processes were combined. Four of the studied compounds were partially eliminated, with poor removal of the fifth (benzotriazole). The energy requirements for a field-scale installation were estimated to be the same order of magnitude as those of ozonation and powdered activated carbon treatments.

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