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A Comparative Environmental Life-Cycle Analysis for Removing Phosphorus from Wastewater: Biological versus Physical/Chemical Processes

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Phosphorus can be removed from wastewater biologically, chemically, or through a combination of the two. In this study, we applied environmental life-cycle assessment to develop a metric with which decision-makers can compare processes. Two phosphorus-removal scenarios were contrasted—one based on a desktop-level design and one based on full-scale operational data. To achieve 0.5 mg/L effluent phosphorus (desktop design), a biological-only process would incur 5.2% less effect on global warming potential, as contrasted with a chemical-only process. At an effluent quality of 0.1 mg/L (full-scale facilities), where a biological process augmented with chemicals was contrasted with a chemical-only process, the relative gap increases to 13.2%. As chemical usage increased, the adverse environmental effect of chemical treatment only increased. The results of this study suggest that best practices would center phosphorus removal first on the biological process, with chemical processes added only as necessary.
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Keywords: environmental life-cycle analysis; phosphorus removal

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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