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Purification, schematicCredit: Judd Water & Wastewater Consultants
Water being discharged from a 45-degree angled pipe
An image of two walls facing each other. There are approx 10 pipes in each wall. Water is gushing out of each pipe into a channel between the two walls.

Pollutant removal

Removal of pollutants from the wastewater represents the primary metric for assessing the performance of a water or wastewater treatment process. Removal by biological processes is primarily by biological degradation coupled with physical separation.

Purification, schematic
Credit: Judd Water & Wastewater Consultants

Pollutant removal in MBRs

Membrane bioreactors (MBRs) achieve increased removal of most pollutants compared with the conventional activated sludge process.

This is because, among other reasons, the mixed liquor is filtered through a membrane with an effective pore size of <0.1 µm.

Pollutant removal in MBRs
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Micropollutants

Micropollutants are species, e.g. pesticides or microplastics, present at very low concentrations which are of concern due to their potential harm to the environment and/or human health.

They can be discharged into the environment from a diverse range of sources, wastewater treatment plants being a primary source.

Micropollutants

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TROCs − Trace organic compounds

Trace organic compounds (TrOCs) encompass a wide range of organic materials which are considered to have adverse health and environmental impacts even at very low concentrations.

TrOCs include endocrine disruptors, PFAS and surfactants.

A number of studies have indicated that fixed film processes may be amongst the most effective at reducing levels of TrOCs in wastewater.

Trace organic compounds − TrOCs
Assorted plastic waste
Credit: Photo by Magda Ehlers

Microplastics and nanoplastics

Microplastics and nanoplastics are small plastic particles ranging from 1 µm to around 5 mm in size (microplastics) and <1 µm (nanoplastics).

Microplastics include microbeads from personal care products and synthetic fibers from clothing during laundry, which can find their way into municipal wastewater systems.

Microplastics and nanoplastics

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Disinfection technologies acting on a single bacterium
Credit: Judd Water & Wastewater Consultants

Pathogens: bacteria and viruses (disinfection)

Disinfection is the substantial removal or inactivation of pathogenic micro-organisms.

The most widespread method of disinfection is chemical disinfection by chlorination. Other chemical methods include ozonation and chlorammination.

Membranes disinfect by physically removing the pathogens and, like UV irradiation, offer the advantage of generating no chemical by-products.

Pathogens: bacteria and viruses (disinfection)