Nutrient Removal, Pharmaceuticals and Sustainability

Biological Processes with Impacts on these Three Emerging Issues: Biological Nutrient Removal, Pharmaceuticals and Sustainability

I recently attended a great presentation by Nancy Love, PhD., PE, University of Michigan during the Process Seminar conducted by MWEA. The topic was Nutrient Removal and Pharmaceuticals and Sustainability, which are three issues that continue to emerge and develop in the field of wastewater management.

Essentially, WWTPs utilizing nutrient removal processes are demonstrating much higher biotransformation levels of some pharmaceuticals in WWTP effluent  which is good. The tradeoff of this benefit is its impact on sustainability in the form of higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Traditional BNR processes (which denitrify using AOB) emit large amounts of nitrous oxide (N2O) during the anoxic-aerobic shift. N2O is 300X more potent than CO2 as a GHG.

Tackling this challenge, the presentation gave a good look at the current science, studies, and pilots of deammonification processes using bacteria capable of anaerobic ammonium oxidation (aka annamox).

These processes do not emit copious amount of N2O and therefore have a much greener footprint, while still achieving the desirable high levels of biotransformation of some pharmaceuticals.

This is all very interesting and exciting for those focused on sustainable solutions for these issues. 

Best of all, the technology and products to achieve it, already exist in the marketplace. It's up to our profession to apply it wisely.

Links To Learn More

Here are links to related Nitrogen Removal processes by Infilco Degremont.

An anaerobic ammonium oxidation processspecific to removing the loads of ammonia and nitrates from the supernate and filtrate following anaerobic digestion, so they do not return to the head of the WWTP.

A process for Highly Efficient Denitrification and Suspended Solids Removal in a Single Step

A suite of flexible solutions utilizing MBBR/IFAS fixed film media for a multitude of biological process applications including treatment capacity increases, nitrification, denitrification, as well as total nitrogen and phosphorus removal.

An innovative nutrient removal hybrid activated-sludge process, the attached growth phase produces a large diverse and active biomass containing aerobic, anoxic and anaerobic regions.

And here is the MWEAs link to the full presentation given at the MWEA Process Seminar (November 7th, 2012).

We are interested in your feedback on the future of these emerging issues.

  •   Are they important to you?  (Why?) 
  •   Do you see them becoming regulated soon? 
  •   Are you already making plans to address them? How? (Any examples?)