Format of Original
Royal Society of Chemistry
Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology
Regulated phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) discharges and the cost of fertilizer provide economic drivers for nutrient removal and recovery from wastewater. This study used ion exchange (IX) in dilute (domestic) wastewater to concentrate nutrients with subsequent recovery by struvite precipitation. This is the first tertiary wastewater treatment study directly comparing P removal using a range of Fe, Cu, and Al-based media followed by clinoptilolite IX columns for N removal and precipitation using the combined regenerants. Phosphate removal prior to breakthrough was 0.5–2.0 g P Lmedia−1, providing effluent concentrations −1 PO4-P and −1 NH4-N for ≥80 bed volumes. Dow-FeCu resin provided effective P removal, efficient neutral pH regeneration and 560 mg P L−1 in the regeneration eluate (≥100× concentration factor). Exchange capacity of clinoptilolite in column mode was 3.9–6.1 g N Lmedia−1 prior to breakthrough. Precipitation using the combined cation and anion regenerants resulted in a maximum of 74% P removal using Dow-FeCu. Precipitates contained impurities, including Al3+, Ca2+, and Fe. Overall, the IX-precipitation recovery process removed ≥98% P and 95% N and precipitates contained 13% P and 1.6% N. This sequential process can satisfy increasingly stringent wastewater standards and offers an effective alternative to traditional treatment technologies that simply remove nutrients. Approximately 84% of total P and 97% of total Kjeldahl N entering a treatment plant can be captured (accounting for primary clarifier removal), whereas most existing technologies target side streams that typically contain only 20–30% of influent P and 15–20% of influent N.