Organic micropollutant removal in full-scale rapid sand filters used for drinking water treatment in The Netherlands and Belgium

Camilla Di Marcantonio, Cheryl Bertelkamp, Nikki van Bel, Tessa E. Pronk, Peer H.A. Timmers, Paul van der Wielen, Andrea M. Brunner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Biological treatment processes have the potential to remove organic micropollutants (OMPs) during water treatment. The OMP removal capacity of conventional drinking water treatment processes such as rapid sand filters (RSFs), however, has not been studied in detail. We investigated OMP removal and transformation product (TP) formation in seven full-scale RSFs all treating surface water, using high-resolution mass spectrometry based quantitative suspect and non-target screening (NTS). Additionally, we studied the microbial communities with 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing (NGS) in both influent and effluent waters as well as the filter medium, and integrated these data to comprehensively assess the processes that affect OMP removal. In the RSF influent, 9 to 30 of the 127 target OMPs were detected. The removal efficiencies ranged from 0 to 93%. A data-driven workflow was established to monitor TPs, based on the combination of NTS feature intensity profiles between influent and effluent samples and the prediction of biotic TPs. The workflow identified 10 TPs, including molecular structure. Microbial community composition analysis showed similar community composition in the influent and effluent of most RSFs, but different from the filter medium, implying that specific microorganisms proliferate in the RSFs. Some of these are able to perform typical processes in water treatment such as nitrification and iron oxidation. However, there was no clear relationship between OMP removal efficiency and microbial community composition. The innovative combination of quantitative analyses, NTS and NGS allowed to characterize real scale biological water treatments, emphasizing the potential of bio-stimulation applications in drinking water treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127630
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Drinking water treatment
  • Microbial community composition analysis
  • Non-target screening
  • Organic micropollutants
  • Rapid sand filtration
  • Transformation products

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Organic micropollutant removal in full-scale rapid sand filters used for drinking water treatment in The Netherlands and Belgium'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this