Tailored Activated Carbons for Sustainable Removal of Environmental Contaminants

EPA Grant Number: FP917435
Title: Tailored Activated Carbons for Sustainable Removal of Environmental Contaminants
Investigators: Byrne, Timothy Michael
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental Engineering


What impact do extreme environmental events such as wildfires, hurricanes and floods have on the water quality of impacted watersheds and what challenges do they present to drinking water treatment? This research aims to better understand the water quality changes, especially changes in natural organic matter that result when wildfires occur in a watershed. In addition, the treatability of these waters will be explored with conventional water treatment techniques and tailored activated carbons.


This research will study the impact of wildfire on the source water quality of impacted Colorado watersheds by characterizing the natural organic matter along with other common water parameters (i.e., pH, alkalinity and turbidity) for samples taken at different locations within these watersheds. Removal of natural organic matter will be evaluated for activated carbons produced from various lignocellulosic materials and will be related to surface chemistry and porosity data from the activated carbons. This removal will be compared with other conventional water treatment techniques.

Expected Results:

The natural organic matter of wild-fire impacted watersheds is altered due to the combustion and pyrolysis of lignocellulosic and other organic materials that occur during the fire. These processes can alter greatly the composition and structure of the dissolved organic matter (DOM), which transports into the surface water. The DOM profiles are unique from that of a healthy, un-impacted watershed and are expected to produce different disinfection byproducts upon disinfection. The character of the DOM will be monitored throughout a watershed and at different points in a full-scale drinking water treatment plant, which can help to explain the mechanisms involved in DOM creation, transformation and removal. In addition, different types of activated carbon will be tested, and removal will be related to different characteristics of the activated carbon properties.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection
Because humans depend on safe drinking water sources to maintain their well-being, an understanding of the effects of environmental events on drinking water sources is essential to protecting this precious resource. In addition, the development of economically and environmentally sustainable treatment options will help water utilities ensure a safe drinking water supply despite emerging environmental contaminants.

Supplemental Keywords:

activated carbon, natural organic matter, drinking water treatment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • Final