Effluent organic matter (EfOM) in wastewater: Constituents, effects, and treatment

H. K. Shon, S. Vigneswaran, S. A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

443 Scopus citations


Wastewater reuse is being increasingly emphasized as a strategy for conservation of limited resources of freshwater and as a mean of safeguarding the aquatic environment due to contaminants present in wastewater. Although secondary and tertiary treated wastewater is often discharged into surface waters, it cannot be reused without further treatment. One of the parameters of concern for human and environmental health is components of organic matter originating from wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents. This effluent organic matter (EfOM) should be carefully characterized in order to find an optimum treatment method for water reuse. This review presents the components of EfOM present in WWTP effluents and various treatment methods that may be employed for reduction of EfOM. These processes include flocculation, adsorption, biofiltration, ion exchange, advanced oxidation process, and membrane technology. The removal efficiency is discussed in terms of removal of total organic carbon, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), different polarity fractions (such as hydrophobic and hydrophilic), and molecular weight distribution of organic matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-374
Number of pages48
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Adsorption
  • Advanced oxidation process
  • Biofiltration
  • Biologically treated sewage effluent
  • Characteristics
  • Effluent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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