Atrazine is a persistent organic pollutant and it has been widely used in agriculture and forestry in the world for more than fifty years. Atrazine shows ecotoxicity effects in aquatic ecosystems even at very low level concentrations with endocrine disruptor activity. Few studies were carried out on atrazine removal performances in drinking and waste-water by biological treatments, especially in membrane bio-reactors (MBRs). MBR technology might be more efficient than the conventional one in the removal of micro-pollutants. The fate of atrazine in wastewater treatment plants and its influence on the biomass activity was evaluated in this study. The experimental work was divided in three different phases: inhibition studies on different types of biomass (by means of microcalorimetry); adsorption studies on different sludges (conventional activated sludge (CAS) – and MBR) calculating adsorption isotherms and, finally, atrazine removal in an MBR pilot plant (simulating a treatment of atrazine and nitrate contaminated groundwater). The absence of significant inhibition was observed; higher atrazine adsorption on MBR sludge was detected for lower atrazine concentration (<50 µg L−1); the removal efficiency in the MBR pilot plant was lower than 25% but higher than the theoretical one (based on adsorption isotherms).
Keywords: adsorption, atrazine, calorimetry, inhibition, MBR