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Surface-modified activated carbon for N-nitrosodimethylamine removal in the continuous flow biological activated carbon columns


The carcinogenic nitrogenous disinfection by-product, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), is challenging to adsorb due to its high polarity and solubility. Our previous research demonstrated that the adsorptive removal of NDMA can be improved using surface-modified activated carbon (AC800). The current study evaluated the efficacy of AC800 in removing NDMA in a continuous-flow column over 75 days, using both granular activated carbon (GAC) and biologically activated carbon (BAC) columns. The AC800 GAC column demonstrated extended breakthrough and exhaustion times of 10 days and 22 days, respectively, compared to the conventional GAC column at 4 days and 10.5 days. The surface modification effect persisted for 25 days before the removal trends became indistinguishable. The AC800 BAC column outperformed the conventional BAC column with a longer breakthrough time of 11.3 days compared to 7.4 days. BAC columns consistently showed greater NDMA removal, emphasizing the role of biodegradation in NDMA removal on carbon. The higher NDMA removal in the inoculated columns was attributed to increased microbial diversity and the dominance of six specific genera, Methylobacterium, Phyllobacterium, Curvibacter, Acidovorax, Variovorax, and Rhodoferax. This study provides new insights into using modified activated carbon as GAC and BAC media in a real-world continuous-flow setup.

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