Varying attenuation of trace organic chemicals in natural treatment systems – A review of key influential factors

Josefine Filter, Veronika Zhiteneva, Carsten Vick, Aki Sebastian Ruhl, Martin Jekel, Uwe Hübner, Jörg E. Drewes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The removal of trace organic chemicals (TOrCs) from treated wastewater and impacted surface water through managed aquifer recharge (MAR) has been extensively studied under a variety of water quality and operating conditions and at various experimental scales. The primary mechanism thought to dictate removal over the long term is biodegradation by microorganisms present in the system. This review of removal percentages observed in biologically active filtration systems reported in the peer-reviewed literature may serve as the basis to identify future indicators for persistence, as well as variable and efficient removal in MAR systems. A noticeable variation in reported removal percentages (standard deviation above 30%) was observed for 24 of the 49 most commonly studied TOrCs. Such variations suggest a rather inconsistent capacity of biologically active filter systems to remove these TOrCs. Therefore, operational parameters such as the change in dissolved organic carbon (ΔDOC) during treatment, hydraulic retention time (HRT), filter material, and redox conditions were correlated to the associated TOrC removal percentages to determine whether a data-based relationship could be elucidated. Interestingly, 11 out of the 24 compounds demonstrated increased removal with increasing ΔDOC concentrations. Furthermore, 10 compounds exhibited a positive correlation with HRT. Based on the evaluated data, a minimum HRT of 0.5–1 day is recommended for removal of most compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129774
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Biodegradation
  • Biofiltration
  • Hydraulic retention time (HRT)
  • Managed aquifer recharge (MAR)
  • Redox
  • Trace organic chemicals (TOrCs)


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