Removal of natural organic matter by ion exchange: Comparing regenerated and non-regenerated columns

Michael Edgar, Treavor H. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) in water has adverse impacts on the water treatment process and is effectively removed by ion exchange (IEX). Some researchers have proposed the term biological ion exchange (BIEX) for the process of continuous DOM removal by ion exchange without the need for chemical regeneration that results in brine waste. Surface water with moderate dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations (4–6 mg/L) and high sulfate concentrations (80 – 120 mg/L) was fed to two regenerated and two non-regenerated columns for 12,500 bed volumes (9 months) with the goal of investigating the effects of chemical and possibly biological regeneration on long-term IEX operation. Chemically regenerated columns achieved between 60 and 80% DOC removal for the entirety of the experiment, while non-regenerated columns achieved steady DOC removal of ~50%. Inorganic ion analysis showed that biological activity had minimal impact on DOC removal, and the main mechanism of removal was secondary IEX between sulfate (SO42−) and fractions of DOC with high affinities for ion exchange. Fluorescence and specific UV absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA 254) data showed that fractions of DOC with higher SUVA 254 values (terrestrial-like fractions) were better removed by secondary IEX than those with lower SUVA 254 values (aquatic/microbial-like fractions). Scanning electron microscopy showed that biofilms on non-regenerated resins covered 5–15% of the resin surface and are composed of numerous species of bacteria with varying functions, with some protozoa present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116661
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • BIEX
  • Biofilm
  • DOC
  • DOM
  • Ion exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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