The biofilm stress response of biological activated carbon (BAC) was investigated under prolonged exposure to sulfadiazine and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, simulating complex emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) that are mainly involved in the formation of nitrogenous disinfection byproducts (N-DBPs) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Under trace complex EOCs condition (2 µg/L), N-DBP precursors and abundance of ARGs increased significantly in BAC effluent. The total formation potential of haloacetonitriles (HANs) and halonitromethanes (HNMs) was 751.47 ± 2.98 ng/L, which was much higher than the control group (440.67 ± 13.38 ng/L without EOCs). Similarly, the relative abundance of ARGs was more than twice that in the control group. The complex EOCs induce excessive extracellular polymeric substance secretion (EPS), thereby causing more N-DBP precursors and stronger horizontal gene transfer. Metagenome analysis revealed that functional amino acid and protein biosynthesis genes were overexpressed compared to the control group, causing more EPS to be secreted into the external environment. Complex EOCs promote Cobetia, Clostridium, and Streptomyces dominance, contributing to the production of N-DBP precursors and ARGs. For the first time, in addition to the direct hazards of the EOCs, this study successfully revealed the indirect water quality risks of complex EOCs from the microbial stress response during BAC treatment. Synergistic regulation of EOCs and microorganisms is important for tap water security.
Keywords: Antibiotic resistance genes; Biological activated carbon; Disinfection byproducts; Emerging organic contaminants; Extracellular polymeric substances.
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