Review: Dissolved effluent organic matter: Characteristics and potential implications in wastewater treatment and reuse applications
Dionysiou, D. D.
Mills, M. A.
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Wastewater reuse is currently considered globally as the most critical element of sustainable water management. The dissolved effluent organic matter (dEfOM) present in biologically treated urban wastewater, consists of a heterogeneous mixture of refractory organic compounds with diverse structures and varying origin, including dissolved natural organic matter, soluble microbial products, endocrine disrupting compounds, pharmaceuticals and personal care products residues, disinfection by-products, metabolites/transformation products and others, which can reach the aquatic environment through discharge and reuse applications. dEfOM constitutes the major fraction of the effluent organic matter (EfOM) and due to its chemical complexity, it is necessary to utilize a battery of complementary techniques to adequately describe its structural and functional character. dEfOM has been shown to exhibit contrasting effects towards various aquatic organisms. It decreases metal uptake, thus potentially reducing their bioavailability to exposed organisms. On the other hand, dEfOM can be adsorbed on cell membranes inducing toxic effects. This review paper evaluates the performance of various advanced treatment processes (i.e., membrane filtration and separation processes, activated carbon adsorption, ion-exchange resin process, and advanced chemical oxidation processes) in removing dEfOM from wastewater effluents. In general, the literature findings reveal that dEfOM removal by advanced treatment processes depends on the type and the amount of organic compounds present in the aqueous matrix, as well as the operational parameters and the removal mechanisms taking place during the application of each treatment technology.•Effects and challenges associated with dEfOM and wastewater reuse are discussed.•The efficiency of advanced treatment in removing dEfOM is assessed.•dEfOM can reduce metal bioavailability or can induce toxicity to microorganisms.•SMPs are mainly responsible for membrane fouling and formation of DBPs.•UV-driven AOPs are an attractive option to minimize dEfOM.