Behavior of micropollutants in polishing units that combine sorption and biodegradation mechanisms to improve the quality of activated sludge effluent.


The current study evaluated the removal of six micropollutants (estrone (E1); 17?-estradiol (E2); 17?-ethynylestradiol (EE2); ibuprofen (IBP), diclofenac (DCF), and paracetamol (PCT)) from the final effluent of an activated sludge domestic sewage treatment plant using polishing filters. Four polishing filters were assembled as columns and filled with a mixture of sand and vermiculite, sand and charcoal, sand and granulated activated carbon (9:1 by volume), and sand only. The column filters were placed near the outlet of a full-scale activated sludge treatment plant and were fed with a treated effluent containing from 4.71 to 28.93 ng L-1 of the target compounds at a hydraulic loading rate (HLR) of 50 m3 m?2 day?1. Samples were collected periodically from the influent (biologically treated sewage) and effluent of the four columns and analyzed for estrogens, anti-inflammatories, and analgesic compounds. Liquid samples were submitted to a solid phase extraction (SPE) and analyzed by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry after their derivatization. Among the compounds found, diclofenac was distinguished by the high occurrence of detection in the samples (85%) and higher mean concentration (~?17 ng L?1). High removal efficiency (>?90%) of the estrogens was observed in the polishing systems studied, while for the other targets, the removal efficiency varied from 10 to 30%. The concentration values of some compounds were low, probably due to rainfall during the sampling period

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