Removal of Chromium Species from Low-Contaminated Raw Water by Different Drinking Water Treatment Processes

The occurrence of Cr (VI) in drinking water resources in low but toxicologically relevant concentrations requires the development of reliable and industrially applicable separation processes in drinking water treatment. There is little information in the literature on the removal of chromium species at concentrations below 10 µg/L. Therefore, in this study, the removal of chromium in the concentration range ≤10 µg/L was investigated using three separation processes, activated carbon filtration (ACF), reduction/coagulation/filtration (RCF) and low-pressure reverse osmosis (LPRO), in both laboratory- and pilot-scale tests. In ACF treatment, Cr (III) was removed by deep bed filtration over 1.5 m of anthracite at a pH of 7.5 (which was used as a prefilter prior to ACF), while Cr (VI) was removed up to 75% via ACF at a filter bed depth of 2.5 m. Fresh activated carbon (AC) exhibited the highest adsorption capacity for Cr (VI), while reactivated AC had a significantly lower capacity for Cr (VI), which was attributed to calcium and iron deposits. In technical filters, where multiple reactivated activated carbon is used, this led to a low removal rate for Cr (VI). Using the RCF process with Fe (II) dosing in a continuous flow reactor at a specific coagulant dosing ratio, high Cr (VI) removal, down to a concentration of 0.1 µg/L, was achieved within minutes. The subsequent anthracite filtration ensured the complete removal of Fe (III) and Cr (III) precipitates. The RCF process was limited by the oxygen side reaction with Fe (II), which dominated at Cr (VI) concentrations below 1 µg/L. In addition, a four-step LPRO process with concentrate recycling showed effective removal (>99%) of both Cr (III) and Cr (VI) species in raw water as well as a negligible effect of pH in the testing pH range of 5.6 to 8.3 on the Cr (VI) removal. Nevertheless, the water hardness and pH of the LPRO permeate must be increased to make it available as drinking water. The three separation processes were found to be able to meet the expected more stringent future regulations for Cr (VI) level in drinking water. The most suitable technology, however, can be selected with respect to the raw water quality/characteristics, site-specific conditions and the already existing equipment.


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