Advanced water treatment plants employing ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse osmosis (RO) membrane processes are frequently implemented for the production of high-quality recycled water. It is important that process performance is able to be quantified and assessed to ensure it is fit for purpose. This research utilizes size exclusion chromatography with organic carbon, organic nitrogen and UV254 detection to determine the change in both DOC concentration and character through a UF/3 stage-RO pilot plant. It was determined that 97% of the influent DOC was removed on average to produce a water of less than 0.5 mg L−1 as C. The UF process removed more than half of the biopolymer fraction, equating to 4.5% DOC removal, while the RO process generally removed all DOC except a small proportion of the low MW humics and acids and low MW neutral fraction. While not changing significantly in concentration, the Stage 3 RO permeate typically contained low concentrations of humic fraction, indicating a change in character and therefore a change in rejection mechanism. Overall, it was determined that while TOC monitoring is important in advanced water treatment systems, improved understanding of the character of the TOC present lends greater insight into the assessment of process performance.
Keywords: LC-OCD, organic carbon, reverse osmosis, ultra-filtration, water reuse