Degradation of Trace Organic Pollutants in Drinking Water Biologically Active Filters

EPA Grant Number: FP917300
Title: Degradation of Trace Organic Pollutants in Drinking Water Biologically Active Filters
Investigators: Zearley, Thomas L
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Drinking Water


This research will investigate and model the effects of biological filter design and behavior on trace micropollutant biodegradation by attached microorganisms under drinking water conditions. In addition, biofiltration can be cast into the regulatory framework by viewing it as a “treatment technique” for the control of biodegradable micropollutants.


Biological filter design will be investigated by determining the role of contact time with active biomass, impacts of ozonation, and filter media on micropollutant biodegradation. Biological filter behavior will be characterized by determining the retained biodegradation capacity of attached biomass after absences of exposure and the ability of nitrifying organisms to biodegrade different types of micropollutants. Micropollutants were selected based on environmental occurrence and represent a wide range of biodegradation potential. The micropollutants consist of 35 pharmaceuticals, pesticides, personal care products and endocrine disrupting compounds with concentrations ranging from 10 to 500 ng/L. Incorporating results on filter design and behavior along chemical characteristics, a “treatment technique” will be developed.

Expected Results:

It is expected that the majority of micropollutants will be biodegradable to varying degrees with short acclimation periods for most micropollutants. In addition, once acclimated the biological filters retain the capacity to biodegrade micropollutants if there is an absence of exposure for less than 6 months. Nitrifying biological filters also will be able to biodegrade different sets of micropollutants than carbonaceous biological filters.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Biological filtration can reduce the exposure to micropollutants in drinking water. Once the capabilities and limitations are known, biological filtration can be used as a treatment technology for the removal of micropollutants in future regulations.

Supplemental Keywords:

biological filtration, micropollutants, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disrupting compounds, personal care products, pesticides, treatment technique,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final