The removal of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) by a laboratory-scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) fed with synthetic sewage was evaluated and moreover, compared with that by a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) operated under same conditions in parallel. Eight kinds of typical EDCs, including 17β-estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), estriol (E3), 17α-ethynilestradiol (EE2), 4-octylphenol (4-OP), 4-nonylphenol (4-NP), bisphenol A (BPA) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPnEO), were spiked into the feed. Their concentrations in influent, effluent and supernatant were determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method. The overall estrogenecity was evaluated as 17β-estradiol equivalent quantity (EEQ), determined via yeast estrogen screen (YES) assay. E2, E3, BPA and 4-OP were well removed by both MBR and SBR, with removal rates more than 95% and no significant differences between the two reactors. However, with regard to the other four EDCs, of which the removal rates were lower, MBR performed better. Comparison between supernatant and effluent of the two reactors indicated that membrane separation of sludge and effluent, compared with sedimentation, can relatively improve elimination of target EDCs and total estrogenecity. By applying different solids retention times (SRTs) (5, 10, 20 and 40 d) to the MBR, 10 and 5 d were found to be the lower critical SRTs for efficient target EDCs and EEQ removal, respectively.
Keywords: endocrine disrupting chemicals, estrogenecity, membrane bioreactor, sequencing batch reactor, solids retention time