The objective of this study was to determine the potential for enhanced removal of emerging micropollutants by a pilot-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR), relative to a full-scale conventional activated sludge water reclamation plant (WRP). Specific contaminants investigated in the study
include n-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), selected hormones, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). The extent of NDMA removal in the secondary processes was determined and the removal mechanisms were investigated. Data collected from this study indicate that the MBR process
and the WRP achieved approximately the same level of removal of NDMA, even though the MBR was operated at a longer solids retention time (SRT) and higher biomass concentration than the WRP. The WRP primary effluent contained commonly detected hormones including 17β-estradiol, estrone,
estriol, testosterone, androstenedione, and progesterone. With the exception of estrone, all of the hormones were removed by the MBR and the WRP to below detection. As for estrone, the MBR achieved greater removal than the WRP. The MBR also achieved significantly better removal of total estrogenic
activity than did the WRP. Both the MBR and the WRP were effective for removal of many commonly detected PPCPs (triclosan, acetaminophen, caffeine, naproxen, and ibuprofen) in wastewater. The MBR was more effective than the WRP for removal of two antibiotics (trimethoprim and erythromycin-H2O)
and an anti-cholesterol chemical (gemfibrozil) tested in the study. However, several PPCPs were not removed by either biological treatment process.
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