Organic micropollutant biotransformation and sorption during drinking water treatment

30. März 2023, 16:00 Uhr - 17:00 Uhr

Eawag Dübendorf, room FC-C20 & Online

Speaker: Prof. Nora Sutton, Environmental Technology, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands


Organic micropollutants (OMPs) including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals, are pervasive in the water cycle and regularly detected in drinking water sources including surface water and groundwater. While advanced treatment techniques are available to remove OMPs, these technologies tend to require high economic, energy and chemical costs. The mechanisms by which OMPs are removed during existing drinking water treatment remains to a large extent unexplored by the scientific community and underexploited by the drinking water sector. Dr. Sutton’s talk examines biotransformation and sorption processes during drinking water treatment, with the goal of steering existing drinking water treatment towards better OMP removal.

The talk will focus on the fate and transformation of OMPs in groundwater aquifers used for drinking water production and in rapid sand filters at drinking water treatment plants. Although both systems are oligotrophic in nature, biotransformation of OMPs can occur, in most cases in conjunction with dissolved organic carbon (DOC) biodegradation. Thus, the talk explores the role of DOC in biotransformation of OMPs under oligotrophic conditions, attempting to understand the tenuous position of DOC either functioning as a co-substrate supporting OMP degradation or a competing substrate inhibiting OMP degradation. To this end, DOC biodegradability and DOC loading rates are examined, with the ultimate goal of steering OMP biotransformation using specific DOC substrates.  Furthermore, the talk highlights the potential of rapid sand filters, designed for iron, manganese, and ammonium treatment, to sorb and degrade OMPs. Together, Dr. Sutton’s talk provides insights into the potential for OMP biotransformation and sorption within existing drinking water treatment.