Activated carbon (AC) has been shown to remove precursors of halogenated disinfection byproducts. Granular and powdered activated carbon (GAC, PAC) were investigated for their potential to adsorb N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) precursors from blends of river water and effluent from a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). At bench scale, waters were exposed to lignite or bituminous AC, either as PAC in bottle point experiments or as GAC in rapid small-scale column tests (RSSCTs). NDMA formation potential (FP) was used as a surrogate for precursor removal. NDMA FP was reduced by 37, 59, and 91% with 3, 8, and 75 mg/L of one PAC, respectively, with a 4-h contact time. In RSSCTs and in full-scale GAC contactors, NDMA FP removal always exceeded that of the bulk dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and UV absorbance at 254 nm. For example, whereas DOC breakthrough exceeded 90% of its influent concentration after 10 000 bed volumes of operation in an RSSCT, NDMA FP was less than 40% of influent concentration after the same bed life of the GAC. At full or pilot scale, high NDMA FP reduction ranging from >60 to >90% was achieved across GAC contactors, dependent upon the GAC bed life and/or use of a preoxidant (chlorine or ozone). In all experiments, NDMA formation was not reduced to zero, which suggests that although some precursors are strongly sorbed, others are not. This is among the first studies to show that AC is capable of adsorbing NDMA precursors, but further research is needed to better understand NDMA precursor chemical properties (e.g., hydrophobicity, molecular size) and evaluate how best to incorporate this finding into full-scale designs and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12630-12639
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 20 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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