Effects of powdered activated carbon (PAC) dosing on the overall performance of membrane bioreactors (MBR) were investigated in two bench-scale submerged MBRs. Positive impacts of PAC dosing on membrane fouling and the removal of 17β-estradiol (E2) and 17α-ethyinylestradiol (EE2) were demonstrated over a six-month stable operational period. PAC dosing in the MBR increased the removal rates of E2 and EE2 by 3.4% and 15.8%, respectively. The average soluble extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and colloidal total organic carbon (TOC) concentrations in the PAC-MBR sludge was 60.1% and 61.8% lower than the control MBR sludge, respectively. Lower soluble EPS and colloidal TOC concentrations in the PAC-MBR sludge resulted in a slower rate of trans-membrane pressure (TMP) increase during MBRs operation, which could prolong the lifespan of membranes. Cost assessment showed that PAC dosing could reduce the operating cost for membrane cleaning and/or membrane replacement by about 25%. The operating cost for PAC dosing could be offset by the benefit from its reducing the cost for membrane maintenance.
Keywords: cost analysis, endocrine disrupting compounds, estrogen, membrane bioreactor, powdered activated carbon, sludge characteristics