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Microbial Fouling of a Reverse Osmosis Municipal Water Treatment System

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Microbial fouling of a municipal water treatment system using reverse osmosis was investigated. From a combination of growth and molecular assays, it was discovered that the prefilter unit concentrated and facilitated microbial growth, and such growth led to microbial fouling of the reverse osmosis unit. Few cells were observed in the prefilter influent, but substantial microbial contamination was observed in the prefilter effluent, and this correlated with increasing headloss across the prefilter. The effluent caused microbial fouling of the leading elements of the reverse osmosis unit, as determined by reduced permeate flow, analysis of the elements, and assays of the membrane foulant. Both the introduction of microorganisms to the reverse osmosis unit from the prefilter unit and headloss across the prefilter could be effectively controlled through cleansing of the prefilter housing unit with sulfuric acid. Such treatments must be performed at appropriate intervals to prevent subsequent microbial growth in the prefilter unit.

Keywords: filtration; microbial fouling; reverse osmosis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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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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