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Due to more stringent wastewater pretreatment requirements proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, renewed attention is being given to treatment of oily wastewater from automotive manufacturing operations. As lower residual concentrations of oil/organic compounds are mandated, a better understanding of their nature is needed, both to characterize the compounds that are not being removed by current treatment processes and to help optimize the development of the many possible treatment combinations to improve their removal. In automotive manufacturing, metalworking operations at engine, transmission, and stamping plants generate oily wastewater that contains stable oil/water emulsions. Wastewater is currently treated at Ford facilities by either chemical de-emulsification or ultrafiltration. Biological treatment has been studied and used as a polishing step after these processes. Gas chromatographic analysis of the residual organic compounds reveals a large hump of unresolved compounds. The primary findings of this study to date are as follows:

The majority of the oil and grease content in oily wastewater from automotive manufacturing is known to be mineral oils. The oils are comprised of hydrocarbons with different sizes and combinations of structures, including normal and branched alkanes, cycloalkanes, and aromatics.

A method (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) with Townsend discharge chemical ionization by nitric oxide) was identified that can characterize hydrocarbons by both carbon number (i.e, size) and degree of unsaturation (i.e., structure).

This method can help evaluate the selective removal of various hydrocarbon sizes and classes by different wastewater treatment methods.

Additional work will be needed to apply this method to aqueous samples containing oil that has been biologically or chemically modified (e.g., breakdown products or additives).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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