Removal of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in conventional drinking water treatment processes

Elsevier, Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Volume 243, December 2021
Gutierrez-Urbano I., Villen-Guzman M., Perez-Recuerda R., Rodriguez-Maroto J.M.

The presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in water poses a serious threat to the human health due to their toxic effects. Therefore, the removal of these compounds from drinking water in Potable Water Treatment Plants (PWTPs) should be evaluated and optimized to assure the quality of water intended for human consumption. In this work, changes in PAHs levels during drinking water treatment processes have been monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of conventional processes in the removal of these recalcitrant pollutants. Several chemical treatment methods based on the addition of KMnO4, FeCl3 and NaClO were evaluated through jar tests. The analysis of PAH content of aqueous samples was carried out by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. The highest removal efficiency, over 90%, was obtained for benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene and dibenzo(a,h)anthracene. The most recalcitrant compounds to degradation were fluorene, anthracene, phenanthrene and flouranthene with reduction rates between 45 and 57%. The conventional treatment processes assessed have been proved to be effective reducing the PAH below the legal limits of drinking water quality. The definition of a parameter based on chemical properties of PAHs, i.e., sorption capacity and energy required to remove an electron, enabled the prediction of removal rate of pollutants which represents a valuable information for the plant operation.