This study explored process synergies attainable by integrating a vacuum ultraviolet-based advanced oxidation process with biofiltration. A comparison using granular activated carbon or granular zeolite as filtration media were examined in context of advanced wastewater treatment for potable reuse. Six biofiltration columns, three with granular activated carbon and three with granular zeolite, were operated in parallel and batch-fed daily with nitrified secondary effluent. After achieving a pseudo-steady state through the filter columns, vacuum ultraviolet treatment was applied as pre-treatment or as post-treatment, at two different applied energies (i.e., VUV-E1=1 kWh/m3 and VUV-E10=10 kWh/m3). Once granular activated carbon had transitioned to biologically activated carbon, as determined based on soluble chemical oxygen demand removal, adsorption was still observed as the main mechanism for contaminants of emerging concern and nitrate removal. Vacuum ultraviolet pre-treatment markedly improved contaminants of emerging concern removal through the integrated system, achieving 40% at VUV-E1 and 90% at VUV-E10. When applied as post-treatment to zeolite column effluents, VUV-E1 and VUV-E10 further increased contaminants of emerging concern removal by 20% and 90%, respectively. In the zeolite system, vacuum ultraviolet pre-treatment also increased soluble chemical oxygen demand removal efficiency, indicating that higher energy vacuum ultraviolet increased biodegradability. Total prokaryotes were two-fold more abundant in biologically activated carbon than in zeolite, with vacuum ultraviolet pretreatment markedly affecting microbial diversity, both in terms of richness and composition. Media type only marginally affected microbial richness in the biofilters but showed a marked impact on structural composition. No clear relationship between compositional structure and depth was observed.
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