Advanced oxidation processes for removal of organics from cooling tower blowdown : Efficiencies and evaluation of chlorinated species

Saha, Pradip; Wang, Yicheng; Moradi, Mahsa; Brüninghoff, Robert; Moussavi, Gholamreza; Mei, Bastian; Mul, Guido; H.M. Rijnaarts, Huub; Bruning, Harry


One of the major challenges in reusing cooling tower blowdown water (CTBD) utilizing membrane processes is its remaining organic compounds, e.g., humic substances leading to biofouling. Besides, the possible abundance of chloride in CTBD imposes the concern of the formation of chlorinated by-products. To choose a pre-treatment process for the studied CTBD composition, various advanced oxidation processes (AOPs), including electrooxidation (EO), photocatalytic degradation (PCD), heat-activated persulfate oxidation (PS), UVC/vacuum UV (UVC/VUV), and UVC processes, were evaluated and compared based on two main targets: i) highest removal and mineralization of the organics, especially humic substances; and ii) lowest formation of chlorinated by-products including adsorbable organic halides and oxychlorides. All the processes were conducted in the natural condition of the real CTBD, while solution pH was monitored. Based on results of chemical oxygen demand, total organic carbon, dissolved organic carbon, UV254 absorbance, liquid-chromatography–organic carbon detection (LC-OCD), and fluorescence excitation-emission matrices (FEEM), it is concluded that PS leads to complete removal of organic compounds along with the lowest formation of low molecular weight organic acids and organic neutrals. FEEM and LC-OCD data also indicated that EO, PCD, and UVC/VUV processes brought about substantial removal of organic compounds and broke down the humic substances into low molecular weight building blocks and organics. Besides, EO exhibited the highest AOX and oxychlorides formation, while these were limited when using the other AOPs. Summarizing, PS, PCD, and UVC/VUV were efficient processes for the degradation and mineralization of organics without generating significant amounts of chlorinated by-products.