Emerging wastewater treatment processes such as membrane bioreactors (MBRs) have attracted a significant amount of interest internationally due to their ability to produce high quality effluent suitable for water recycling. It is therefore important that their efficiency in removing hazardous trace organic contaminants be assessed. Accordingly, this study investigated the removal of trace organic chemical contaminants through a full-scale, package MBR in New South Wales, Australia. This study was unique in the context of MBR research because it characterised the removal of 48 trace organic chemical contaminants, which included steroidal hormones, xenoestrogens, pesticides, caffeine, pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Results showed that the removal of most trace organic chemical contaminants through the MBR was high (above 90%). However, amitriptyline, carbamazepine, diazepam, diclofenac, fluoxetine, gemfibrozil, omeprazole, sulphamethoxazole and trimethoprim were only partially removed through the MBR with the removal efficiencies of 24–68%. These are potential indicators for assessing MBR performance as these chemicals are usually sensitive to changes in the treatment systems. The trace organic chemical contaminants detected in the MBR permeate were 1 to 6 orders of magnitude lower than guideline values reported in the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling. The outcomes of this study enhanced our understanding of the levels and removal of trace organic contaminants by MBRs.
- decentralised treatment system
- membrane bioreactor
- pharmaceuticals and personal care products
- steroidal hormones