In order to elucidate the capability of biomass developed in membrane bioreactors (MBR) to degrade and sorb emerging micropollutants, biodegradation (kbiol) and sorption (ksor) kinetic constants as well as solid-liquid partition coefficients (Kd) of 13 selected pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) were determined with MBR heterotrophic biomass adding a pulse (100 ppb of each compound) and following the liquid and solid phase concentrations over time. The results obtained were compared to literature data referring to conventional activated sludge (CAS) systems. Two experiments were performed: one in the MBR itself and the second one in a batch reactor with the same type and concentration of biomass as in the MBR. Overall, both biodegradation and sorption coefficients were in the same range as previously reported by other studies in CAS systems, indicating that MBR biomass does not show better capabilities for the biological degradation and/or sorption of PPCPs compared to the biomass developed in CAS reactors. Therefore, the higher PPCPs removal efficiencies found in MBRs are explained by the high biomass concentrations obtained at the long sludge retention times at which this type of reactors are usually operated.
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