Fortification of soil-based wastewater treatment systems with versatile ubiquitous reactive media for enhanced removal of phosphorus and other pollutants

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Concerns about potential risks posed by discharge from small-scale wastewater treatment (SWT) systems to receiving water bodies have prompted robust enforcement of national discharge quality standards in rural areas of most developed countries. Consequently, communities in such places are in need of effective technologies with which to achieve compliance. Currently, reactive filter (RF) media are increasingly preferred over advanced alternatives, due mainly to their simplicity, affordability and proven potential. However, many of the field-tested filters are commercial products which are costly and scarce but also only capable of removing few contaminants they are engineered to target hence often requiring to be coupled with other treatment units to achieve full treatment. In the preliminary findings of this study, biochar (BC) was identified and thus suggested basing on existing literature, as a versatile ubiquitous low-cost material for treating wastewater. Its effectiveness in fortifying sand (Sa) and gas concrete (GC)-based SWT facilities was later demonstrated in long-term experiments using laboratory packed bed reactors and field constructed filter beds. The efficacy of SaBC and GCBC systems in reducing turbidity (>95%), DOC (60%; p<0.05) and PO43- (40-90%; p<0.05) was significantly higher than for their reference counterparts. Further, sorbed P was more leachable from Sa (11.2 mgkg-1) and SaBC (20.5 mgkg-1) filters but more extractable and hence plant-available in GC (65-91 mgkg-1). Therefore, the study concluded that fortification of soil-based systems with biochar filters may be a promising solution in enhancing performances of soil-based wastewater treatment systems, while P-rich RF media can act as a nutrient source for plants if recycled to agriculture.