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Water Science & Technology: Water Supply Vol 1 No 4 pp 43–48 © IWA Publishing 2001

Assessing pathogen removal efficiency of microfiltration by monitoring membrane integrity

S.K. Hong*, F.A. Miller** and J.S. Taylor***

*Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Central Florida, PO Box 162450, Orlando, Florida 32816-2450, USA
**Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Central Florida, PO Box 162450, Orlando, Florida 32816-2450, USA
***Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, University of Central Florida, PO Box 162450, Orlando, Florida 32816-2450, USA


ABSTRACT
This study was conducted to investigate the ability of various methods of monitoring membrane integrity to respond to changes in actual membrane integrity imposed by the compromised fibers within the microfiltration unit. In addition, the pilot-scale MF unit was challenged with high concentrations of coliform, Cryptosporidium, and spore, in order to assess the pathogen removal capability of microfiltration. A correlation between the integrity tests and microbial challenge data was also made. The integrity tests investigated in this study were pressure decay and diffusive air flow tests (direct integrity tests), and turbidity and particle counting (indirect integrity tests). Both pressure decay (PDT) and diffusive air flow (DAF) tests were sensitive enough to detect one damaged fiber out of 66,000. The extent of fouling did not affect the sensitivity of the PDT and DAF, showing that PDT and DAF tests are a simple, reliable means to monitor membrane integrity under field conditions. Indirect integrity monitoring using turbidity and particle counting, however, responded poorly to changes in membrane integrity. Microbial challenge study demonstrated that microfiltration was capable of removing various pathogens including Cryptosporidium, at the level required by drinking water regulations, under even adverse operating conditions. Finally, PDT and DAF tests showed a better correlation with actual microbial removal efficiency of microfiltration than turbidity and particle counting. The turbidity and particle counting grossly underestimated the removal of pathogen larger than MF membrane pore size due to poor sensitivity.

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