Biologically active filters – An advanced water treatment process for contaminants of emerging concern

Shuangyi Zhang, Stephen W. Gitungo, Lisa Axe, Robert F. Raczko, John E. Dyksen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


With the increasing concern of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in source water, this study examines the hypothesis that existing filters in water treatment plants can be converted to biologically active filters (BAFs) to treat these compounds. Removals through bench-scale BAFs were evaluated as a function of media, granular activated carbon (GAC) and dual media, empty bed contact time (EBCT), and pre-ozonation. For GAC BAFs, greater oxygen consumption, increased pH drop, and greater dissolved organic carbon removal normalized to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) were observed indicating increased microbial activity as compared to anthracite/sand dual media BAFs. ATP concentrations in the upper portion of the BAFs were as much as four times greater than the middle and lower portions of the dual media and 1.5 times greater in GAC. Sixteen CECs were spiked in the source water. At an EBCT of 18 min (min), GAC BAFs were highly effective with overall removals greater than 80% without pre-ozonation; exceptions included tri(2-chloroethyl) phosphate and iopromide. With a 10 min EBCT, the degree of CECs removal was reduced with less than half of the compounds removed at greater than 80%. The dual media BAFs showed limited CECs removal with only four compounds removed at greater than 80%, and 10 compounds were reduced by less than 50% with either EBCT. This study demonstrated that GAC BAFs with and without pre-ozonation are an effective and advanced technology for treating emerging contaminants. On the other hand, pre-ozonation is needed for dual media BAFs to remove CECs. The most cost effective operating conditions for dual media BAFs were a 10 min EBCT with the application of pre-ozonation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


  • Biological active filters
  • Contaminants of emerging concern
  • EBCT
  • Granular activated carbon and dual media
  • Ozonation
  • Water treatment


Dive into the research topics of 'Biologically active filters – An advanced water treatment process for contaminants of emerging concern'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this