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Water Res. 2004 Nov;38(18):3971-9.

Optimisation and significance of ATP analysis for measuring active biomass in granular activated carbon filters used in water treatment.

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Water Quality and Public Health, Kiwa Water Research, P.O. Box 1072, 3430 BB Nieuwegein, The Netherlands.


A method for determining the concentration of active microbial biomass in granular activated carbon (GAC) filters used in water treatment was developed to facilitate studies on the interactions between adsorption processes and biological activity in such filters. High-energy sonication at a power input of 40 W was applied to GAC samples for the detachment of biomass which was measured as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Modelling of biomass removal indicated that a series of six to eight sonication treatments of 2 min each yielded more than 90% of the attached active biomass. The ATP concentrations in 30 different GAC filters at nine treatment plants in The Netherlands ranged from 25 to 5000 ng ATP cm(-3) GAC, with the highest concentrations at long filter run times and pretreatment with ozone. A similar concentration range was observed in nine rapid sand (RS) filters. ATP concentrations correlated significantly (p<0.05) with total direct bacterial cell counts in each of these filter types, but the median value of the ATP content per cell in GAC filters (2.1 x 10(-8) ng ATP/cell) was much lower than in the RS filters (3.6 x 10(-7) ng ATP/cell). Average biofilm concentrations ranging from 500 to 10(5) pg ATP cm(-2) were calculated assuming spherical shapes for the GAC particles but values were about 20 times lower when the surface of pores >1 microm diameter is included in these calculations. The quantitative biomass analysis with ATP enables direct comparisons with biofilm concentrations reported for spiral wound membranes used in water treatment, for distribution system pipes and other aquatic environments.

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