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Molecular Variability in Wastewater Organic Matter and Implications for Phosphorus Removal Across a Range of Treatment Technologies

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The results obtained by fluorescence characterization of dissolved organic matter in 44 wastewater samples are presented. The samples were collected from 12 wastewater treatment plants across the United States. Samples from several wastewater treatment plants are from various steps in the wastewater treatment process and allow us to observe the effects of these processes on dissolved organic matter and the implications for phosphorus removal. Overall, wastewater DOM is highly variable with variations due to source as well as within a treatment plant. In terms of non-reactive phosphorus (nRP) removal it was found that tryptophan (Trp) fluorescence correlated well with nRP concentrations. The overall correlation coefficient for a logarithmic relationship yielded r2=0.301, p<0.001 (for dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) and Trp the values are r2=0.243, p=0.002). The steepest relationship between Trp and nRP was for plants with some aspect of biological treatment. The steepest data on a logarithmic scale have an r2 of 0.842 (p=0.009) in terms of nRP and Trp correlation. Other biological treatment plants have a more moderate slope and a correlation coefficient r2=0.683, p<0.001 for nRP and Trp. These same treatment plants yield a correlation of r2=0.403, p=0.008 when DOP data is considered instead of nRP. For treatment plants with predominatly chemical treatment and low biological component, there is essentially no relationship between nRP and Trp (r2 of 0.047 and a p value of 0.417).

Keywords: Dissolved Organic Matter; Fluorescence Spectroscopy; Wastewater Treatment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-01-01

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