Digging deep into a GAC filter: Temporal and spatial profiling of adsorbed organic micropollutants

Ellen Edefell, Ola Svahn, Per Falås, Elina Bengtsson, Michael Axelsson, Regine Ullman, Michael Cimbritz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A large pilot-scale granular activated carbon (GAC) filter was operated downstream in a full-scale wastewater treatment plant to remove organic micropollutants. To describe the spatial and temporal developments of micropollutant adsorption profiles in the GAC filter, micropollutants were extracted from GAC media taken at various filter depths and number of treated bed volumes. At a low number of treated bed volumes (2600 BVs), most micropollutants were adsorbed in the top layers of the filter. At increasing number of treated bed volumes (7300–15,500 BVs), the adsorption front for micropollutants progressed through the filter bed at varying rates, with sulfamethoxazole, fluconazole, and PFOS reaching the bottom layer before carbamazepine and other well-adsorbing micropollutants, such as propranolol and citalopram. Higher amounts of adsorbed micropollutants in the bottom layer of the filter bed resulted in decreased removal efficiencies in the treated wastewater. Mass estimations indicated biodegradation for certain micropollutants, such as naproxen, diclofenac, and sulfamethoxazole. A temporary increase in the concentration of the insecticide imidacloprid could be detected in the filter indicating that extraction of adsorbed micropollutants could provide an opportunity for backtracking of loading patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118477
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022-Apr-19

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Earth and Related Environmental Sciences (105)


  • Granular activated carbon
  • Micropollutant extraction
  • Micropollutant removal
  • Organic micropollutants
  • Stratified adsorption
  • Wastewater treatment


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