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Achieving the Great Lakes Initiative Mercury Limits in Oil Refinery Effluent

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To meet the stringent Great Lakes Initiative (GLI) wastewater discharge mercury (Hg) limit of 1.3 ppt (ng /L), mercury removal technologies need to be identified and investigated. The goals of this study were to (1) identify and assess available wastewater treatment technologies for mercury removal from an oil refinery wastewater; and (2) conduct bench-scale tests to provide comparable, transparent, and uniform results to assess their performance at low mercury concentrations. The study found that many tested technologies were able to achieve the GLI mercury target concentration at the bench-scale, albeit with different efficiencies and engineering implications. These results demonstrate that at this scale there is no fundamental physical or chemical barrier to achieving <1.3 ng Hg/L in the tested wastewater. The study also found that some technologies were effective on particulate mercury whereas others were effective on dissolved mercury. One emerging treatment technology was found to be effective on both particulate and dissolved mercury. Three mercury-removal technologies—ultrafiltration (particulate mercury), adsorption (dissolved mercury), and an emerging reactive filtration technology (particulate and dissolved mercury)—are recommended for further study. This research offers treatment alternatives for different forms of mercury in an oil refinery wastewater, which might be applicable to other types of mercury-containing wastewater.

Keywords: Great Lakes Initiative mercury (Hg) criterion; low level mercury removal; refinery wastewater

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Argonne National Laboratory, Environmental Science Division, Argonne, Illinois.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • 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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