Trade-offs between effluent quality and ammonia volatilisation with CO2 augmented microalgal treatment of anaerobically digested food-waste centrate.

Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of environmental management, 2020, 277, pp. 111398
Issue Date:
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Diversion of food waste from landfill disposal to waste-to-energy facilities has become both an environmentally and economically viable option to support the circular bioeconomy. However, the liquid centrate produced during anaerobic digestion is high in total ammonia, with concentrations ~2000 g m-3, and can release gaseous emissions, including ammonia, methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide, to the atmosphere. Further treatment is required before discharge to sewer, or to the environment. Microalgal wastewater treatment systems augmented with CO2 offer a promising and cost-effective treatment solution for reducing both total ammonia concentrations and ammonia volatilisation. In this study, we investigate the effects of augmenting CO2 on nutrient removal and specifically nitrogen losses, as well as biomass productivity under two difference hydraulic retention times (HRT). Both CO2 addition and HRT affect nitrogen losses, with the percentage removal of total ammonia significantly lower (p < 0.01) when CO2 was added to the treatments, while increased HRT significantly increased (p < 0.05) total ammonia percentage removal. Total nitrogen budgets showed significantly lower (p < 0.01) abiotic nitrogen losses from the system when CO2 was added to the culture but at the expense of effluent quality. Both total suspended solids and volatile suspended solids significantly increased (p < 0.01) under longer HRT (8 days), with CO2 addition, while chlorophyll-a biomass significantly increased (p < 0.01) on longer HRT, regardless of CO2 addition. These results demonstrate that, while CO2 augmentation helped to mitigate ammonia losses to atmosphere, the trade-off was poorer effluent quality. Coupling CO2 augmentation with longer HRT increased biomass production and nutrient removal efficiency. This study provides an insight into how simple operational changes can alleviate some of the trade-offs between atmospheric losses and effluent quality. However, in order to manage the trade-off between reduced atmospheric losses and poorer effluent quality, further optimisation of the operation of the microalgal system treating food-waste centrate is required.
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