Simultaneous nitrogen, phosphorous, and hardness removal from reverse osmosis concentrate by microalgae cultivation.Water Res. 2016 May 01; 94:215-224.WR
While reverse osmosis (RO) is a promising technology for wastewater reclamation, RO concentrate (ROC) treatment and disposal are important issues to consider. Conventional chemical and physical treatment methods for ROC present certain limitations, such as relatively low nitrogen and phosphorus removal efficiencies as well as the requirement of an extra process for hardness removal. This study proposes a novel biological approach for simultaneous removal of nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium (Ca(2+)) and magnesium (Mg(2+)) ions from the ROC of municipal wastewater treatment plants by microalgal cultivation and algal biomass production. Two microalgae strains, Chlorella sp. ZTY4 and Scenedesmus sp. LX1, were used for batch cultivation of 14-16 days. Both strains grew well in ROC with average biomass production of 318.7 mg/L and lipid contents up to 30.6%, and nitrogen and phosphorus could be effectively removed with efficiencies of up to 89.8% and 92.7%, respectively. Approximately 55.9%-83.7% Ca(2+) could be removed from the system using the cultured strains. Mg(2+) removal began when Ca(2+) precipitation ceased, and the removal efficiency of the ion could reach up to 56.0%. The most decisive factor influencing Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) removal was chemical precipitation with increases in pH caused by algal growth. The results of this study provide a new biological approach for removing nitrogen, phosphorous, and hardness from ROC. The results suggest that microalgal cultivation presents new opportunities for applying an algal process to ROC treatment. The proposed approach serves dual purposes of nutrient and hardness reduction and production of lipid rich micro-algal biomass.