This study examined the ability of activated sludge (AS) to sorb and biodegrade ethylmethylphosphonic acid (EMPA) and malathion, a degradation product and surrogate, respectively, for an organophosphate chemical warfare agent. Sorption equilibrium isotherm experiments indicate that sorption of EMPA and malathion to AS is negligible. EMPA at a concentration of 1 mg L(-1) degraded by approximately 30% with apparent first-order kinetics, possibly via co-metabolism from nitrification. Heterotrophic bacteria and abiotic mechanisms, however, are largely responsible for malathion degradation also with apparent first-order kinetics. EMPA did not inhibit chemical oxygen demand (COD) oxidation or nitrification activity, although malathion did appear to induce a stress response resulting in inhibition of COD oxidation. The study also included a 30-day experiment in which malathion, at a concentration of 5 mg L(-1), was repeatedly fed to AS in bench-scale sequencing batch reactors (SBRs) operating at different solids retention times (SRTs). Peak malathion concentrations occurred at day 4.5, with the longer SRTs yielding greater peak malathion concentrations. The AS reduced the malathion concentrations to nearly zero by day 10 for all SRTs, even when the malathion concentration in the influent increased to 20.8 mg L(-1). The data suggest a biodegradation pathway for malathion involving an oxygenase. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that all samples had an abundance of Zoogloea, though there was greater bacterial diversity in the SBR with the SRT of 50 days. The SBR with an SRT of 9.5 days had an apparent reduction in the diversity of the bacterial community.
Keywords: Activated sludge; Ethylmethylphosphonic acid; Malathion; Organophosphate; Solids retention time.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.