What’s the right process for sustainable wastewater management?

Sustainable water management is just one facet of the challenges faced by industrial water users. What can be done to make it easier?

Building resilience against water scarcity, future compliance changes, and balancing energy demand for industrial manufacturers is a challenge, particularly when it comes to sustainable wastewater management. Selecting appropriate wastewater treatment processes can supplement or address this issue.

Biological treatment processes, both anaerobic and aerobic, offer industrial customers a pathway to exploit the hidden energy potential of high-strength wastewater. It can also be implemented to reuse treated water to reduce reliance on potable water.

As Hydroflux knows, this shift towards sustainable wastewater management practices highlights the importance of selecting the most suitable treatment process tailored to specific industrial applications.

Amid a wealth of information and technological advancements, there is a critical question: ‘which process or processes are best suited for any specific application?’ There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question due to the multitude of options available. They are all contingent upon various factors and numerous variations within a similar framework.

Anaerobic treatment is hailed as a sustainable wastewater management process with several advantages. These include the conversion of organics into valuable biogas and low power consumption. However, there may be better choices for scenarios characterised by high-fat content, high levels of effluent variability, or relatively low organic loads.

Moreover, anaerobic processes need to achieve the necessary discharge quality, particularly in regard to nutrients. This can lead to the requirement of downstream aerobic polishing stages. Nevertheless, anaerobic treatment excels when addressing the high organic loads encountered in numerous manufacturing processes. As such, high-rate anaerobic systems are suited for compact installations, making them ideal for suburban factories.

If an anaerobic system is outside of a specific application, users need to review the adoption of an aerobic process. Key determinants influencing the design of aerobic systems encompass the use of existing infrastructure, available space, and the required effluent quality. Even following this initial assessment, a multitude of possibilities remain.

Aerobic treatment processes can be broadly categorised into four main types: conventional activated sludge (AS), sequential biological reactors (SBR), membrane biological reactors (MBR), and mixed bed biological reactors (MBBR). MBBR systems share a conceptual lineage with fixed film reactors originating from the early development stages of trickling filter technology, which dates back over a century.

All of these processes can be employed to treat wastewater from various types of manufacturing facilities. It can include nitrification and denitrification stages. However, due to recent technological advancements and improved manufacturing costs, MBBR is often favoured for its adaptability to effluent quality variations and compact footprint. On the other hand, MBR is preferred when a high-quality discharge is necessary.

The MBR utilises ultrafiltration modules to separate the biomass from the treated water phase. It is a preferred choice when reuse schemes are being considered. Treatment in ultrafiltration membranes is usually implemented as a first or even final stage of treatment before reuse. The membranes can achieve high suspended solids removal and partial disinfection.

Another innovative aerobic variation, the Organica process, seamlessly integrates conventional wastewater treatment technology with a botanical ecosystem. Organica uses plant roots that grow into the effluent, fostering the growth of beneficial bacteria and living organisms. Its design, reminiscent of a greenhouse or garden, not only enhances the functionality of wastewater treatment plants but also elevates their aesthetic appeal.

For more information, visit www.hydroflux.com.au.

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