Environmental technology

A contribution to the understanding of micro-pollutant sorption mechanisms in wastewater biological processes: case of the tributyltin.

PMID 23393963


Micro-pollutant fluxes distribution throughout the physical separation and biological units of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are very dependent ofsorption phenomena. The understanding and the control of the sorption stage is thus essential for the optimization of micro-pollutant removal in WWTPs, and particularly in biological treatments where these mechanisms influence the bioavailability towards micro-organisms. If the influence of the micro-pollutant physicochemical characteristics (e.g. Kow, pKa) on their ability to sorb on biological media (i.e. sludge) has been demonstrated, it appears that some other parameters, like the biosorbent characteristics, have to been taken into account. The aim of this study is thus to correlate the capacities of sorption of an environmentally relevant substance (tributyltin), with a thorough characterization of different types of sludge. The characterization of three biological media (raw, sonicated and flocculated activated sludges) is proposed according to various characterization parameters related to biochemical composition, aggregate size, rheological behaviour etc. The results show first that, whatever the sludge characteristics may be, the sorption mechanisms are very rapid and that an equilibrium state is reached after a few minutes. The influence of the sludge characteristics, notably the floc size and the chemical oxygen demand partition between solid and colloidal fraction, on sorption efficiency is demonstrated. A Langmuir modelling allows giving the maximum sorption capacity, as well as the binding energy for the three studied sludges, according to their physicochemical characteristics.