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Recalcitrant organic compounds (chemical oxygen demand sources) in biologically treated pulp and paper mill effluents: their fate and environmental impact in receiving waters

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Most North American pulp and paper mills now biologically treat (biotreat) their liquid effluent. However, treated water still contains effluent-derived recalcitrant organic material (EROM), measured as chemical oxygen demand (COD), for which emission limits exist in Europe and are being considered in the U.S. Production of microbially resistant, dissolved natural organic material (NOM) typically found in Canadian stream and lake waters occurs slowly under gentle conditions, while mill EROM is generated from lignocellulosics by faster and harsher processes. Similarity of the environmental effects of NOM and pulp and paper mill EROM are examined. Changes occurring over 4 months in biologically treated effluent from two modern Canadian mills and lake NOM when sealed in gas- and light-permeable bags and placed in a pristine Quebec lake are reported. Addition of microbial co-metabolites significantly improved the dark mineralization of organochlorines surviving mill biological treatment. Mill EROM was light sensitive, nonacutely toxic in the Microtox assay, and similar to NOM in the surrounding lake in most bulk properties. There was no evidence to suggest that placing specific limits on mill EROM (COD) emissions would be environmentally beneficial.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1998-11-01

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    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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