Behaviour of trace organics during drinking water production via subsurface passage

Berlin’s drinking water is produced from groundwater replenished by up to 60 % of surface water from the city’s abundant rivers or lakes using bank filtration or artificial groundwater recharge. Currently 700 production wells, located along the banks produce more than 200 Mio m³/a of drinking water, which is treated only for iron and manganese removal before distribution. This is due to the fact that different natural treatment processes (e.g. straining of particles, adsorption or biodegradation) occur during subsurface passage so that post-treatment effort is reduced. Compared to other bank filtration sites world wide, the situation in Berlin is characterized by low hydraulic conductivities but nevertheless high capacities. Interdisciplinary research projects have shown that travel times and redox conditions during subsurface passage are highly transient due to seasonal effects and discontinuous pump operation. Trace organics like pharmaceuticals and x-ray contrast media that occur in Berlin’s surface waters due to relevant shares of treated waste water are attenuated during subsurface passage to varying degree. Substances that were found to be poorly attenuated under oxic conditions or even persistent include carbamazipine, primidone, sulfamethoxazole, 1,5 NDSA, MTBE and EDTA. Under anoxic to anaerobic conditions others like phenazone and diclofenac show little removal. However, none of these substances occur at relevant concentrations in the finished drinking water due to low initial concentrations or additional removal during post-treatment. Research is currently focussing on hybrid systems combining subsurface passage with advanced drinking water treatment in order to be prepared in case higher source concentrations occur.

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