A case study of organic micropollutants in a major Swedish water source - Removal efficiency in seven drinking water treatment plants and influence of operational age of granulated active carbon filters

By Rikard Tröger, Stephan J Köhler, Vera Franke, Olof Bergstedt, and Karin Wiberg
Sci. Total Environ.
December 4, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135680

A wide range of organic micropollutants (n = 163) representing several compound categories (pharmaceuticals, pesticides, per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, flame retardants, phthalates, food additives, drugs and benzos) were analysed in water samples from the Göta Älv river (Sweden's second largest source water). The sampling also included raw water and finished drinking water from seven drinking water treatment plants and in addition a more detailed sampling at one of the treatment plants after six granulated active carbon filters of varying operational ages. In total, 27 organic micropollutants were detected, with individual concentrations ranging from sub ng L levels to 54 ng L. The impact of human activities along the flow path was reflected by increased concentrations downstream the river, with total concentrations ranging from 65 ng L at the start of the river to 120 ng L at the last sampling point. The removal efficiency was significantly (p = 0.014; one-sided t-test) higher in treatment plants that employed granulated active carbon filters (n = 4; average 60%) or artificial infiltration (n = 1; 65%) compared with those that used a more conventional treatment strategy (n = 2; 38%). The removal was also strongly affected by the operational age of the carbon filters. A filter with an operational age of 12 months with recent addition of ~10% new material showed an average removal efficiency of 92%, while a 25-month old filter had an average of 76%, and an even lower 34% was observed for a 71-month old filter. The breakthrough in the carbon filters occurred in the order of dissolved organic carbon, per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances and then other organic micropollutants. The addition of fresh granulated active carbon seemed to improve the removal of hydrophobic organic compounds, particularly dissolved organic carbon and per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances.

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