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Assessing the Impacts of Membrane Residuals on Wastewater Treatment Facilities and Effluent Quality

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Given the benefits derived from membrane treatment of water and wastewater, interest in using membranes is growing throughout the world, and at an ever increasing rate. As expected, the focus has been on the benefits of the product water (permeate) side of the system, but the system sidestreams (concentrates) bring their own special set of issues. As with any new technology or application, there are benefits and liabilities. Membrane separation is a non-destructive technology: the membranes merely concentrate the rejected pollutants in a sidestream. Several types of membranes are used in water and wastewater treatment, and the sidestream from each type contains pollutants in different concentrations.

What impacts do these pollutants have on the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and the collection system and how does a system operator assess these impacts? This paper provides an overview of a completed WateReuse Foundation Research project to asses these impacts. The paper briefly reviews the literature search, data collection methods (user web-based survey), utility partner interviews, and a review of issues such as corrosion; recycling and concentration of pollutants in the wastewater; process inhibition; WWTP effluent quality; and impacts of the pollutants on the receiving streams.

The research also identified many of the water balance impacts that can significantly increase the concentration of residuals entering a wastewater system: many times water utilities sell water to outside customers who do not return it as wastewater to the utility's collection and treatment system, which creates an imbalance that may cause additional stress on both the wastewater treatment plant and the receiving stream.

To account for all these variables, two models were developed. Black & Veatch's research partner, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) developed a model to predict the concentration of specific chemicals in concentrates reaching a WWTP. Black & Veatch developed an over arching system wide mass balance model. The B&V model comprises all of the elements of separation processes that account for generation of the concentrate at the source and all of the elements of separation processes that account for transport/fate through the WWTP. The result is a model to predict the concentration of components in the effluent at the WWTP and in the waste solid streams. Multiple concentrate sources can be included. Both models are needed for the guidance manual that has been prepared as part of this project. There are points of entry issues/impacts from the membrane reject streams and there are more global quality issues/ impacts into and out of the WWTP.

The Guidance Manual, to be made available by the WateReuse Foundation in 2006 provides an overview of this work and detailed guidance on the use of the models including tips on how to collect necessary input data and how to structure the model for a specific community's collection and treatment system(s).

In short, this paper presents a summary of the just completed WateReuse Foundation (WRF) study titled Impacts of Membrane Residuals on WWTPs.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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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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