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Field Treatment of MTBE-Contaminated Groundwater Using Ozone/UV Oxidation


  • by Craig L. Patterson,

  • Fernando Cadena,

  • Rajib Sinha,

  • Dzung Kim Ngo-Kidd,

  • Abbas Ghassemi,

  • E. Radha Krishnan


Methyl-tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) is often found in groundwater as a result of gasoline spills and leaking underground storage tanks. An extrapolation of occurrence data in 2008 estimated at least one detection of MTBE in approximately 165 small and large public water systems serving 896,000 people nationally (United States Environmental Protection Agency [U.S. EPA] 2008). The objective of this collaborative field study was to evaluate a small groundwater treatment system to determine the effectiveness of ultraviolet (UV)/ozone treatment in removing MTBE from contaminated drinking water wells. A pilot-scale advanced oxidation process (AOP) system was tested to evaluate the oxidation efficiency of MTBE and intermediates under field conditions. This system used ozone as an oxidizer in the presence of UV light at hydraulic retention times varying from 1 to 3 min. MTBE removal efficiencies approaching 97% were possible with this system, even with low retention times. The intermediate t-butyl alcohol (TBA) was removed to a lesser extent (71%) under the same test conditions. The main intermediate formed in the oxidation process of the contaminated groundwater in these studies was acetone. The concentrations of the other anticipated intermediates t-butyl formate (TBF), isopropyl alcohol (IPA), methyl acetate (MAc), and possible co-occurring aromatics (BTEX) in the effluent were negligible.