PI: Derick Brown
Co-PI(s): John Fox
University: Lehigh University

Biological activated carbon (BAC) offers a unique opportunity to enhance water and wastewater treatment for control of dissolved organic matter, nutrients, and emerging contaminants. It also provides the capacity to consider waste water as a valuable resource, allowing it to be used as a water source for municipal drinking water and industrial applications. Water and wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. are increasingly using BAC columns, but little is understood on the fundamental surface interactions between contaminants, activated carbon surface properties, and the microbial community.

For this study, researchers at Lehigh University are joining with Calgon Carbon, a Pennsylvania- based company that develops activated carbon treatment systems, and the City of Bethlehem Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) to study the operation of BAC columns under operational conditions. A key focus will be to examine the fundamental physiochemical and biological processes that occur on the surface of the BAC in order to optimize wastewater treatment efficiency.

The research team will operate four unique activated carbons, each with a different surface chemistry, to treat the secondary clarifier effluent at the Bethlehem WWTP. The columns will be monitored for nutrient and emerging contaminant removal, and the resulting biological community formed within each column will be analyzed. The Lehigh research team will also characterize the activated carbon surface properties, allowing quantification of important interfacial physiochemical and bioenergetic processes. The team will use this knowledge to provide insight and predictive capabilities on the impacts of activated carbon properties on the effectiveness of the BAC process.