Towards sustainability of environmental protection recovery of nutrients from wastewater filtration and the washing of arsenic contaminated soils

University dissertation from Luleå : Luleå tekniska universitet

Abstract: Conventional methods for wastewater treatment and remediation of the sites withcontaminated soils focus on protection of human health, receiving waters and theenvironment. Towards this end, these methods concentrate on the reduction or removal of polluting substances, and therefore, are not well suited for creating resources through the recovery of nutrients, energy and decontaminated soils. Hence, a new, more sustainable approach is promoted in this thesis and, besides meeting the protection requirements, takes into consideration the resources that can be recovered from the treatment processes, keeping in mind the energy use during such a recovery. To achieve this goal, a better knowledge of wastewater and contaminated soil treatment approaches needs to be developed, from a resource recovery perspective.In this thesis project, laboratory, pilot-scale and full-scale investigations were conducted to study phosphorus (P) sorption in blast furnace slag (BF slag) filters. Further, ammonium adsorption by, and desorption from, clinoptilolite was studied in laboratory columns. A full-scale wastewater treatment system, comprising a willow bed followed by two parallel P–filters with BF slag and Filtralite® P media was examined for the wastewater treatment efficiency, nutrient accumulation in willow biomass, and biomass production. In a similar way, laboratory, pilot-scale and full-scale investigations were conducted to examine arsenic (As) removal from As contaminated soils using physical separation and chemical extraction. Finally, the decontamination of the extraction effluents (contaminated by As) was studied by adjusting pH and adding a coagulant, iron chloride.Pollutant mobilisation and immobilisation were affected by pH, the organic mattercontent, redox potential, time (process duration) and temperature. Results showed that pollutants in the studied media have complex characteristics in terms of charge of species and redox speciation, and therefore, no general conclusions addressing all the conditions studied could be given. The P sorption capacity of BF slag was reduced by outdoor storage and weathering, and the content of organic substances in sewage seemed to have a more negative impact on the sorption process when using weathered BF slag. Arsenic mobilisation from As contaminated soils was affected by pH, the content of organic substances, and redox potential and the nature of these effects depended on the polluting chemicals (i.e. wood preservatives) and the content of calcium in the soil. Extractions at elevated temperatures facilitated high As mobilisation from the contaminated soils for short contact times, assuming that the extraction solution features vital for As mobilisation were not altered, and the fastest As mobilisation was achieved by using an acid oxalate citrate solution rather than reductive or alkaline extraction solutions at room temperatures.In the full-scale treatment system, the willow bed efficiently reduced the content of total suspended solids and biodegradable organic matter in the influent wastewater and prevented the clogging of downstream phosphorus filters during the one year of operation. The Filtralite® P treatment train simultaneously removed over 90 and 70% of BOD and P, respectively, during the experimental period, and therefore, fulfilled the requirements for the low protection level over the period of one year, except for tot-P excesses during the snowmelt period. In the case of tot-N reduction (50%), the high protection level was achieved. On the other hand, the treatment system with BF slag did not fulfil requirements for either low or high protection level, because the coarse-grained BF slag was inefficient in retaining P and the concentrations of oxygen consuming compounds were elevated downstream of the filter.The studied methods for recovering resources through treatment of wastewater and contaminated soils demonstrated a potential for improving environmental sustainability of these processes. Even though the willow bed did not accumulate nutrients from the fed wastewater to a high degree, it facilitated nutrient recovery in other treatment steps located downstream. Fresh, fine-grained BF slag showed capacity to recover P from wastewater, which was comparable to that of other efficient P sorbents. The BF slag material released high amounts of sulphuric compounds during the initial loading phase which consequently increased the concentration of oxygen consuming compounds in the filter effluent. Thus, the use of BF slag for P retention is not recommended when the effluent is discharged to sensitive receiving waters. Natural clinoptilolite studied showed a high capacity for adsorbing ammonium from the pre-treated wastewater, at low operating temperatures. Hence, the clinoptilolite filter has a potential to enhance N retention during the plant dormancy or prior to the maturity of willow beds when N retention is needed. However, the recovery of ammonium was limited by the inefficient desorption process using tap water without recycling the eluate. Fertigated willows grew nearly as well as in the south of Sweden, but in the highly loaded horizontal flow willow bed, the potential to produce biofuel was limited. To recover nutrients, willow clones with lateral growth are preferable. 90% of nutrients accumulated in the above-ground parts of willows could be recovered from the experimental site operated over three growing seasons, particularly when using dense planting and annual harvesting prior to leaf fall.Soil treatment, comprising the exclusion of the fine soil fraction prior to the chemical extraction with strong extraction agents applied at an elevated temperature, was efficient in decontaminating soils, even for short contact times. However, this treatment procedure results in an incomplete soil recovery (i.e. the recovered mass of soil after decontamination is appreciably smaller than the soil mass prior to decontamination), consumes a high amount of energy and lowers the soil quality, which limits the potential end-use of the decontaminated soil. The alkaline extraction effluents could be decontaminated at a pH of 4-5 with the addition of a coagulant. Also, the treatment of alkaline extraction effluents was facilitated by the exclusion of the fine soil fraction from the chemical extraction step. The use of acid oxalate-citrate extraction solution was judged infeasible because the decontamination of such extraction solution is complicated due to the high pH buffering and complexing capacity of the solution.