The impact of natural organic matter on floc structure
The removal of natural organic matter (NOM) at water treatment works (WTW) is essential in order to prevent toxic compounds forming during subsequent disinfection. Coagulation and flocculation processes remain the most common way of removing NOM. The properties of the resulting flocs that form are fundamental to the efficient removal of organic material. Periods of elevated NOM loads at WTW can lead to operational problems as a result of the deterioration in floc structural quality. Assessment of floc physical characteristics can therefore be a crucial tool in order to determine and predict solid-liquid removal performance at WTW. Here the growth, size, breakage, strength, re-growth, fractal dimension and settling velocity were measured for flocs formed from a NOM rich water source. NOM floc structural characteristics were measured and evaluated over a one year period in order to monitor the seasonal variation in floc structure. The results showed that a significant improvement in floc size and strength was seen during autumn and summer months. It was subsequently shown that as the organic fraction in the floc increases the floc size, settling velocity and fractal dimension all decrease. A model was proposed showing how these changes were dependent upon the adsorption of NOM onto primary particle surfaces. A range of different chemical coagulant treatment options were applied for NOM removal and the resulting floc structure compared. Considering both floc structure and optimum NOM removal the treatment systems were of the following order (best to worst): MIEX® + Fe > Fe > Fe + polymer > Al > polyDADMAC. NOM floc re-growth was shown to be limited for all the treatment systems investigated. The practical implications of the results were: (1) The requirement for careful coagulant dosing or order to achieve optimum floc characteristics. (2) The use of a pre-treatment anionic ion-exchange stage prior to coagulation. (3) A comparison of alum and ferric based coagulants suggested the ferric coagulants gave better floc structure and improved NOM removal rates.