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Technologies Available to Meet Numeric Nutrient Criteria and their Associated Economic and Environmental Impacts

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The purpose of this paper is to use two case studies to discuss (a) strategies for complying with ultra-low nutrient limits and Numeric Nutrient Criteria (NNC) and (b) the economic and environmental impacts associated with the treatment technologies needed to meet these nutrient limits. The first case study is from the Falls Lake Watershed in central North Carolina and the second case study is from Plantation, Florida, where state-of-the-art technologies were piloted to meet state-wide NNC that will require plants to meet Total Nitrogen (TN) limits of 0.82–1.73 mg/L and Total Phosphorus (TP) limits of 0.069 – 0.415 mg/L. These limits are more stringent than what was implemented in the initial round of the Chesapeake Bay Program, which has thus far required point sources to meet the mass equivalent of limits of 3.0 mg/L TN and 0.18 mg/L TP.

The paper integrates discussion of these key issues with a discussion of technologies used to meet ultra low limits, including: denitrification filters, advanced oxidation, ballasted flocculation, ion exchange, and Nano-Filtration (NF)/Reverse Osmosis (RO) membranes. The economic evaluation of these treatment technologies indicates that utility rates will be severely impacted because of the higher capital and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) costs associated with these treatment systems with the burden being shifted to the rate payers.

The paper also presents a greenhouse gas emissions perspective of evaluating the promising technologies that can meet ultra-low nutrient limits (TN < 2.0 mg/L, TP < 0.1 mg/L) and their carbon footprints. With the increasing regulatory focus on capping carbon emissions, carbon footprints are necessary to be considered because of the enormous power demands associated with technologies like RO.
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Keywords: Numeric nutrient criteria; environmental impact; greenhouse gas emissions; technologies for ultra-low limits

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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