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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Removal of oxidative stress and genotoxic activities during drinking water production by ozonation and granular activated carbon filtration

Yu, Maria; Lavonen, Elin; Oskarsson, Agneta; Lundqvist, Johan


Background Bioanalytical tools have been shown to be useful in drinking water quality assessments. Here, we applied a panel of in vitro bioassays to assess the treatment efficiency of two pilot-scale treatments: ozonation and granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration at a drinking water treatment plant (DWTP). The pilot-scale systems were studied alongside a full-scale treatment process consisting of biological activated carbon (BAC) filtration, UV disinfection, and monochloramine dosing. Both systems were fed the same raw water treated with coagulation/flocculation/sedimentation and sand filtration. The endpoints studied were oxidative stress (Nrf2 activity), genotoxicity (micronuclei formations), aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activation, as well as estrogen receptor (ER) and androgen receptor (AR) activity. Results Nrf2, AhR, and ER activities and genotoxic effects were detected in the incoming raw water and variability was observed between the sampling events. Compared to most of the samples taken from the full-scale treatment system, lower Nrf2, AhR, and ER bioactivities as well as genotoxicity were observed in all samples from the pilot-scale systems across all sampling events. The most pronounced treatment effect was a 12-fold reduction in Nrf2 activity and a sixfold decrease in micronuclei formations following ozonation alone. GAC filtration alone resulted in sevenfold and fivefold reductions in Nrf2 activity and genotoxicity, respectively, in the same sampling event. Higher bioactivities were detected in most samples from the full-scale system suggesting a lack of treatment effect. No androgenic nor anti-androgenic activities were observed in any sample across all sampling events. Conclusions Using effect-based methods, we have shown the presence of bioactive chemicals in the raw water used for drinking water production, including oxidative stress, AhR and ER activities as well as genotoxicity. The currently used treatment technologies were unable to fully remove the observed bioactivities. Ozonation and GAC filtration showed a high treatment efficiency and were able to consistently remove the bioactivities observed in the incoming water. This is important knowledge for the optimization of existing drinking water treatment designs and the utilization of alternative treatment technologies.


Drinking water; In vitro bioassays; Toxicity; Treatment efficacy; Repeat sampling; Pilot-scale

Published in

Environmental Sciences Europe
2021, Volume: 33, number: 1, article number: 124
Publisher: SPRINGER