Optimization of Sequential Unit Operations for Removal of Organics from Drinking Water

  • E. A. Ibrahim
  • W. C. Becker
  • M. B. Capangpangan
  • I. H. Suffet
Conference paper


The variable chemical, microbial and solids content of ground and surface water sources has naturally lead to site-specific evaluation of the design of unit operations for drinking water. Traditionally, each water treatment unit operation in the laboratory (bench) scale design of water treatment processes is usually completed separately and the overall design parameters are driven by turbidity and disinfection considerations. The unit operations for turbidity control include coagulation and/or filtration, and those for disinfection include chemical oxidation processes such as ozonation and chlorination. Once turbidity and disinfection are controlled, trihalomethane (THM) control is usually considered by trying to optimize these same unit processes. However, for the best control of turbidity, disinfection and THMs, as well as hazardous organic chemicals and tastes and odors; sequential unit operations should be evaluated for all parameters. The water treatment design should be studied as a function of the changes in the nature of the water quality and its chemical content, and how each unit operation affects the subsequent unit operation. This is important for adsorption unit processes such as powdered activated carbon (PAC) and especially for granular activated carbon (GAC) which is a cumulative process. To complete the picture at many water treatment plants, hardness control, minimizing corrosion and biological regrowth in the distribution system are other considerations.

Table 1 shows the present U.S. water quality standards for a drinking water facility to consider (Pontius, 1990). Drinking water standards have been developed in the US with the philosophy that the best raw water source should be used for drinking water. As the population has increased in certain areas of the US, such as the northeast corridor, less than optimum new sources of drinking water have to be considered. Therefore, more extensive evaluations of water quality have become necessary to choose the best available site and to determine the optimum sequence of unit operations.

The water quality standards are separated into microbiological, radionuclides, inorganic and organic chemical areas. Assuming the usual case in the northeast corridor of the U.S. that 1) radionuclides are not a problem, 2) the water source is not vulnerable to direct sewage discharge, and 3) inorganic or organic chemicals that would exceed the standards are not usually present without an accidental spill condition, then the water treatment plant design becomes driven by considerations of disinfection and turbidity, as well as THMs and secondary drinking water regulations of color and taste and odor.

The water quality characteristics that are used to describe organic chemicals in water are measures of;
  1. 1.

    naturally occuring organic matter [e.g. UV absorption and total organic carbon (TOC)]

  2. 2.

    oxidant use [e.g. chlorine demand and ozone utilized],

  3. 3.

    hazardous potential [e.g. trihalomethane formation potential (THMFP)],

  4. 4.

    hazardous chemicals [e.g. chloroform], and

  5. 5.

    aesthetics [e.g. color and taste and odor].


This paper uses these water quality characteristics, as well as the traditional turbidity and bacteriological controls, as parameters to evaluate a potential raw water supply source, and/or to enable rapid determination of changes in water quality caused by individual unit processes and how this individual process can affect an overall treatment train. In particular, taste and odor evaluation is completed by the Flavor Profile Method (Mallevialle and Suffet, 1987) which enables an evaluation of the specific types of odors that are present, in a quantitative manner.


Total Organic Carbon Unit Operation Granular Activate Carbon Powdered Activate Carbon Chlorine Dioxide 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. A. Ibrahim
    • 1
  • W. C. Becker
    • 2
  • M. B. Capangpangan
    • 1
  • I. H. Suffet
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Environmental Studies InstituteDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.American Water Works Service Company, Inc.VoorheesUSA

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