The production of biologically stable drinking water is challenging in conventional surface water treatment plants. However, attainment of biological stability is essential to avoid regrowth in disinfectant-free distribution systems. A novel application of ultrafiltration as a posttreatment step to enhance biological stability of drinking water produced in an existing conventional surface water treatment plant was investigated. The conventional full-scale plant comprised coagulation/sedimentation/filtration, UV-disinfection, biological activated carbon filtration and chlorine dioxide post-disinfection. The produced water exhibited substantial regrowth of Aeromonads, invertebrates and colony counts in the distribution network. Recent literature attributes this phenomenon to the specific presence of slowly biodegradable, high molecular weight (MW) biopolymeric organic compounds. Hence, the aim of this study is to enhance the biological stability of conventionally treated surface water by reducing the concentration of high-MW organic compounds. For this purpose, biological active carbon filtrate was subjected to ultrafiltration with membrane pore sizes of 10 kDa, 150 kDa and 0.12 μm respectively, operating in parallel. The UF performance was evaluated in terms of the achieved reduction in particulate and high-MW organic carbon (PHMOC); the biopolymer fraction in Liquid Chromatography-Organic Carbon Detection; biomass (cells, ATP); Assimilable Organic Carbon (AOC) by the AOC-P17/NOX method for easily biodegradable, low-MW compounds and by the AOC-A3 method for slowly biodegradable, high-MW compounds; and overall microbial growth potential (MGP) as assessed by Biomass Production Potential (BPP) and Bacterial Growth Potential (BGP) bio-assays. Results showed increasing removal of high-MW organic carbon with decreasing UF pore size, i.e., 30%, 60% and 70% removal was observed for the 0.12 μm, 150 kDa and 10 kDa membranes, respectively. Biomass and particulates retention was more than 95% for all UF membranes. AOC-A3, BPP and BGP were substantially reduced by 90%, 70% and 50%, respectively. These respective reductions were similar for all three UF membranes despite their difference in pore size. Easily biodegradable organic compounds (as AOC-P17/NOX) were not reduced by any of the membranes, which was in accordance with expectations considering the low MW of the compounds involved. Based on the obtained results, growth potential appears to be largely attributable to high-MW organic compounds which are retained by a 0.12 μm UF membrane. Furthermore, the quality of all three UF permeates was equal to or better than in reference cases (literature data) which exhibit little regrowth in their disinfectant-free distribution networks. The results demonstrate that ultrafiltration posttreatment in conventional surface water treatment plants is a potentially promising approach to enhance the biological stability of drinking water.
- Biological stability of drinking water
- High-molecular weight organic compounds
- Surface water treatment