This extensive study aimed at quantifying the concentrations and removal efficiency of 23 metals and metalloids in domestic wastewater passing through full-scale plants. Nine facilities were equipped with secondary biological treatment and three facilities were equipped with a tertiary treatment stage. The metals investigated were Li, B, Al, Ti, V, Cr, Fe, Ni, Co, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Rb, Mo, Ag, Cd, Sn, Sb, Ba, Tl, Pb and U. Particulate and dissolved metals were measured using 24 h composite samples at each treatment stage. In influents, total concentrations of Cd, Sb, Co, Se, U, Ag, V were below a few mg/L, whereas at the other extremity Zn, B, Fe, Ti, Al were in the range of 0.1 to >1 mg/L. It was demonstrated that secondary treatment stage (activated sludge, biodisc and membrane bioreactor) were efficient to remove most metals (removal rate > 70%), with the exception of B, Li, Rb, Mo, Co, As, Sb and V due to their low adsorption capacities. With the tested tertiary stages (polishing pond, rapid chemical settler, ozonation), a removal efficiency was obtained for Ti, Cr, Cd, Cu, Zn, Sn, Pb, Fe, Ag and Al, whereas a little removal ( <30%) was obtained for other metals.
Keywords: wastewater, dissolved and particulate metals, removal, ICP-MS, biological and tertiary treatment