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Aerated Biofiltration for Simultaneous Removal of Iron and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons from Groundwater

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Filters incorporating the principles of biological accumulation have been used in Europe to remove iron from drinking water for many years. The authors of this study hypothesized that a modified biological iron-removing filter could simultaneously degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in groundwater impacted by former manufactured gas plant (MGP) operations. The MGP-impacted groundwater obtained for this study had an average total iron concentration of 3.8 mg/L and an average total dissolved PAH concentration of 3.0 mg/L. Naphthalene was the primary PAH, with an average concentration of 2.8 mg/L. The groundwater was passed intermittently through duplicate gravel-media columns at 15 to 30 cm/d for 2 months while filtered air was delivered countercurrently at 4 mL/min. The columns remained partially saturated throughout the study. Flooding, which would have indicated plugging of the columns, was not observed, and the pressure needed to aerate the columns remained constant. Total iron in the effluent was below the detection limit of 0.1 mg/L (97% removal) for 40 days of operation. Removal of total PAHs, primarily two- and three-ring compounds, averaged 99%. This single-stage treatment process represents an economical alternative to biological treatment systems currently available for MGP-impacted groundwater that require pretreatment to remove iron.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2001

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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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