Trace Element Removal in Distributed Drinking Water Treatment Systems by Cathodic H2O2 Production and UV Photolysis

James M. Barazesh, Carsten Prasse, Jannis Wenk, Stephanie Berg, Christina K. Remucal, David L Sedlak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (SciVal)


As water scarcity intensifies, point-of-use and point-of-entry treatment may provide a means of exploiting locally available water resources that are currently considered to be unsafe for human consumption. Among the different classes of drinking water contaminants, toxic trace elements (e.g., arsenic and lead) pose substantial operational challenges for distributed drinking water treatment systems. Removal of toxic trace elements via adsorption onto iron oxides is an inexpensive and robust treatment method; however, the presence of metal-complexing ligands associated with natural organic matter (NOM) often prevents the formation of iron precipitates at the relatively low concentrations of dissolved iron typically present in natural water sources, thereby requiring the addition of iron which complicates the treatment process and results in a need to dispose of relatively large amounts of accumulated solids. A point-of-use treatment device consisting of a cathodic cell that produced hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) followed by an ultraviolet (UV) irradiation chamber was used to decrease colloid stabilization and metal-complexing capacity of NOM present in groundwater. Exposure to UV light altered NOM, converting ∼6 μM of iron oxides into settable forms that removed between 0.5 and 1 μM of arsenic (As), lead (Pb), and copper (Cu) from solution via adsorption. After treatment, changes in NOM consistent with the loss of iron-complexing carboxylate ligands were observed, including decreases in UV absorbance and shifts in the molecular composition of NOM to higher H/C and lower O/C ratios. Chronoamperometric experiments conducted in synthetic groundwater revealed that the presence of Ca2+ and Mg2+ inhibited intramolecular charge-transfer within photoexcited NOM, leading to substantially increased removal of iron and trace elements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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