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Transformation of Molecular Weight Distributions of Dissolved Organic Carbon and UV-Absorbing Compounds at Full-Scale Wastewater-Treatment Plants

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The molecular-weight distribution (MWD) of wastewater dissolved-organic carbon (DOC) was determined in samples from seven full-scale wastewater-treatment plants (WWTPs) that use different biological treatments (air activated sludge [air-AS], pure-oxygen AS [O 2-AS], and trickling filters). The research objective was to determine how different biological treatments influenced the MWD of wastewater DOC. Primary sedimentation effluent DOC from most of the WWTPs exhibited a skewed distribution toward the low-molecular-weight fraction (MWF) (40 to 50%, <0.5 K Daltons [KDa]). The Air-AS effluent DOC exhibited a centrally clustered distribution, with the majority of DOC in the intermediate MWF (0.5 to 3 KDa). The O 2-AS effluent DOC exhibited a skewed distribution toward the high MWF (>3 KDa). The removal of DOC by air- and O 2-AS bacteria followed trends predicted by a macromolecule degradation model. Trickling-filter effluent DOC exhibited a skewed distribution toward the high MWF (50% DOC, >3 KDa).

Keywords: air-activated sludge; dissolved-organic carbon; extracellular polymers; molecular-weight distribution; pure-oxygen-activated sludge; soluble microbial products; ultrafiltration membranes

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2006

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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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