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Science of the Total Environment

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DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.154476


Most wastewater removal and recovery processes primarily target dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) species, leaving the untreated non-reactive dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in the effluent. This DON fraction can account for a substantial part of the total nitrogen (N) load. We analyzed large datasets of N species and concentrations (with a focus on quantifying the fraction of DON) in surface water, ground water, and wastewater effluent across the United States. We then reviewed strategies to remove and recover DON based on results of a range of treatment technologies reported in the literature, including laboratory-scale up to full-scale operation in wastewater treatment plants. Our meta-analysis showed that DON concentrations are greatest in wastewater effluent followed by surface water and groundwater. The concentration of DON in wastewater effluent varied from 0.01 to 10.9 mg N/L (number of data points, n = 163), where the range in surface water was 0.002 to 14.3 mg N/L (n = 11,803). Organic N accounted for the majority of total N in 12.3% of wastewater effluent samples and 49.1% of surface waters. Our literature review showed that currently available wastewater treatment processes do not efficiently target DON removal nor recovery of the DON as a valuable product. One potential DON removal and recovery strategy is transforming DON into DIN, which is generally more easily removed and recovered. Transformation strategies reported in the literature include ozonation, UV/H2O2, and electrooxidation. However, as advanced oxidation processes are often energy- and cost-intensive, further research is needed to improve DON removal and recovery.


Accepted version. Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 828 (July 2022): 154479. DOI. © 2022 Elsevier. Used with permission.

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