Full-Scale Manipulation of the Empty Bed Contact Time to Optimize Dissolved Organic Matter Removal by Drinking Water Biofilters

Nashita Moona, Andrew Holmes, Urban J. Wünsch, Thomas J. R. Pettersson, Kathleen R. Murphy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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A study was conductedat a water treatment plant to optimize parallelrapid gravity biofilters for dissolved organic matter (DOM) removal.The biofilters treat urban and agriculturally impacted river water using a commercial non-adsorptive, expanded-clay filter medium. The study aimed to locate the optimal operating conditions via experimental manipulation of the biofilter empty bed contact time (EBCT) during full-scale operation at the plant. During a two-month experiment, contact times in four parallel biofilters were switched to and maintained at 15, 30, 50, and 80 min by manipulating the hydraulic loading on each filter. The removal efficiency of organic matter fractions increased with EBCT for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and microbial humic-like (F290/420) and protein-like (F280/340) fluorescent organic matter. Other DOM fractions were largely unaffected by biofiltration,or at slightly higher concentrations in the effluent. Protein-like fluorescence is associated with labile organic matter fractions, which are known to be removed poorly by drinking water treatment barriers apart from biological filters. The results suggest that long contact times (>30 min) have advantages for the operation of some biological filters, especially if placed ahead of barriers that are sensitive to biofouling, e.g., membranes. 
Original languageEnglish
JournalACS EST Water
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1117-1126
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Biological filter
  • Drinking water
  • Dissolved organic matter (DOM)
  • Fluorrescence spectroscopy
  • Parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC)
  • Filtralite

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