Long-Term Effects of Polyvinyl Chloride Microplastics on Anaerobic Granular Sludge for Recovering Methane from Wastewater.

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Journal Article
Environmental science & technology, 2020, 54, (15), pp. 9662-9671
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Polyvinyl chloride microplastics (PVC-MPs) are emerging contaminants affecting biological wastewater treatment processes. However, most of the previous studies mainly focused on their short-term impacts on floc sludge, with little work being conducted to explore their potential effects on more complex anaerobic granular sludge (AGS), which has been widely used for high-strength organic wastewater treatment. In this paper, the long-term effects of PVC-MPs on AGS were investigated via continuous feeding tests that are representative of real wastewater treatment processes. The results of a continuous 264 days test showed that the prolonged exposure of PVC-MPs at 15-150 MPs·L-1 significantly (p = 7.86 × 10-37, 3.44 × 10-43, and 5.29 × 10-46) inhibited the COD removal efficiency of AGS by 13.2%-35.5%, accompanied by a 11.0%-32.3% decreased production of methane and 40.3%-272.7% increased accumulation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). In addition, the PVC-MPs exposure suppressed the secretion of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), causing AGS and the inside microorganisms to lose the protection of EPS, thereby resulting in granule breakage and decreased cells viability. Aligning with the deteriorated performance, the long-term exposure of PVC-MPs reduced the total microbial populations and the relative abundances of key methanogens and acidogens. A toxicity mechanism assessment revealed that the negative impacts induced by PVC-MPs are mainly attributed to the toxic leachate and excess oxidative stress.
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