Separation and characterization of refractory colored dissolved effluent organic matter in a full-scale industrial park wastewater treatment plant

Abstract

Colored dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a significant indicator of refractory DOM in wastewaters, and fluorescent DOM is an essential part indicating colorants. However, little is known about the composition and contribution of colored DOM to wastewater. This study provided some insights on the persistent yellowish color in biological effluent through use of a multi-characterization approach, and evaluated the effect of two advanced treatments (O3 and granular active carbon (GAC)) in a full-scale wastewater treatment plant. The multi-characterization technique incorporated resin fractionation, excitation-emission matrix spectroscopy (EEM) combined with fluorescence regional integration (FRI), size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis. The fractionation results showed that hydrophobic acid (HPOA) and hydrophilic (HPI) substances are abundant in colorants, and HPI-type colorants are comparatively resistant or unable to be removed through GAC and O3 individually. FRI-based EEMs showed that F3 (fulvic acid–like organics) and F5 (humic acid–like organics) mainly account for the yellowish color, and their combined fractions of total colorants are 50%, 31%, and 48% in biological, biological + O3, and biological + GAC effluents, respectively. SEC for measurement of the apparent molecular weight revealed that these colorants may have molecular weights in the range 2–5 kDa. The XPS analysis indicated that these colorants possess ether or hydroxyl and nitro (C-O/C-N) chromophoric groups with conjugated aromatic structures. For C-O/C-N, O3 showed good removal efficiency overall. GAC showed exceptionally high efficiency for HPOA but very low efficacy toward HPI-type colorants in terms of C-O/C-N chromophoric functional group removal.

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All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article (and its supplementary information files).

Funding

The first author (A. Islam) is financially supported by the CAS-TWAS president’s Fellowship for International Ph.D. Students (CAS-TWAS Fellowship No. 2017A8004208001). Financial support for this study was obtained from the Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment (2017ZX07106005).

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Ashraful Islam: conceptualization, methodology, formal analysis, software, data curation, investigation, visualization, writing—original draft, writing—review and editing. Guangxi Sun: conceptualization, investigation, writing—review and editing. Wei Shang: investigation. Xingcan Zheng: investigation. Pengfeng Li: investigation. Min Yang: conceptualization, supervision, writing—review and editing. Yu Zhang: conceptualization, supervision, writing—review and editing, project administration

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Correspondence to Yu Zhang.

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Highlights

•A multiple characterization approach to get insights on colored DOM/fluorescence DOM (yellowish color).

•HPOA and HPI contain the major part of colorants, and HPI-type colorants are more persistent in removing.

•C-N/C-O (ether/phenol/nitro group) are the chromophores attached to a long aliphatic-aromatic conjugated system with possible MW 2–5 kDa.

•GAC showed selective removal of C-N/C-O (ether/phenol/nitro group) chromophores from HPOA but poor efficiency in HPI type.

Ashraful Islam and Guangxi Sun are considered co-first authors

Responsible Editor: Ricardo Torres-Palma

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Islam, A., Sun, G., Shang, W. et al. Separation and characterization of refractory colored dissolved effluent organic matter in a full-scale industrial park wastewater treatment plant. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-13732-w

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Keywords

  • Wastewater treatment plant
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Yellowish color
  • Ozonation
  • Granular activated carbon
  • Resin fractionation