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The fate of silver nanoparticles in riverbank filtration systems — The role of biological components and flow velocity

Degenkolb, Laura; Leuther, Frederic; Lüderwald, Simon; Philippe, Allan; Metreveli, George; Amininejad, Sayed; Vogel, Hans-Jörg; Kaupenjohann, Martin; Klitzke, Sondra

FG Bodenkunde

Riverbank filtration is a natural process that may ensure the cleaning of surface water for producing drinking water. For silver nanoparticles (AgNP), physico-chemical interaction with sediment surfaces is one major retention mechanism. However, the effect of flow velocity and the importance of biological retention, such as AgNP attachment to biomass, are not well understood, yet. We investigated AgNP (c = 0.6 mg L−1) transport at different spatial and temporal scales in pristine and previously pond water-aged sediment columns. Transport of AgNP under near-natural conditions was studied in a long-term riverbank filtration experiment over the course of one month with changing flow scenarios (i.e. transport at 0.7 m d−1, stagnation, and remobilization at 1.7 m d−1). To elucidate retention processes, we conducted small-scale lab column experiments at low (0.2 m d−1) and high (0.7 m d−1) flow rate using pristine and aged sediments. Overall, AgNP accumulated in the upper centimeters of the sediment both in lab and outdoor experiments. In the lab study, retention of AgNP by attachment to biological components was very effective under high and low flow rate with nearly complete NP accumulation in the upper 2 mm. When organic material was absent, abiotic filtration mechanisms led to NP retention in the upper 5 to 7 cm of the column. In the long-term study, AgNP were transported up to a depth of 25 cm. For the pristine sediment in the lab study and the outdoor experiments only erratic particle breakthrough was detected in a depth of 15 cm. We conclude that physico-chemical interactions of AgNP with sediment surfaces are efficient in retaining AgNP. The presence of organic material provides additional retention sites which increase the filtration capacity of the system. Nevertheless, erratic breakthrough events might transport NP into deeper sediment layers.