Industrial wastewater treatment

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Industrial wastewater treatment

A group of unit processes designed to separate, modify, remove, and destroy undesirable substances carried by wastewater from industrial sources. United States governmental regulations have been issued that involve volatile organic substances, designated priority pollutants; aquatic toxicity as defined by a bioassay; and in some cases nitrogen and phosphorus. As a result, sophisticated technology and process controls have been developed for industrial wastewater treatment.

Wastewater streams that are toxic or refractory should be treated at the source, and there are a number of technologies available. For example, wet air oxidation of organic materials at high temperature and pressure (2000 lb/in. or 14 kilopascals and 550°F or 288°C) is restricted to very high concentrations of these substances. Macroreticular (macroporous) resins are specific for the removal of particular organic materials, and the resin is regenerated and used again. Membrane processes, particularly reverse osmosis, are high-pressure operations in which water passes through a semipermeable membrane, leaving the contaminants in a concentrate. See Hazardous waste, Membrane separations

Pretreatment and primary treatment processes address the problems of equalization, neutralization, removal of oil and grease, removal of suspended solids, and precipitation of heavy metals. See Sedimentation (industry)

Aerobic biological treatment is employed for the removal of biodegradable organics. An aerated lagoon system is applicable (where large land areas are available) for treating nontoxic wastewaters, such as generated by pulp and paper mills. Fixed-film processes include the trickling filter and the rotating biological contactor. In these processes, a biofilm is generated on a surface, usually plastic. As the wastewater passes over the film, organics diffuse into the film, where they are biodegraded. Anaerobic processes are sometimes employed before aerobic processes for the treatment of high-strength, readily degradable wastewaters. The primary advantages of the anaerobic process is low sludge production and the generation of energy in the form of methane (CH4) gas. See Sewage disposal, Sewage treatment

Biological processes can remove only degradable organics. Nondegradable organics can be present in the influent wastewater or be generated as oxidation by-products in the biological process. Many of these organics are toxic to aquatic life and must be removed from the effluent before discharge. The most common technology to achieve this objective is adsorption on activated carbon.

In some cases, toxic and refractory organics can be pretreated by chemical oxidation using ozone, catalyzed hydrogen peroxide, or advanced oxidation processes. In this case the objective is not mineralization of the organics but detoxification and enhanced biodegradability.

Biological nitrogen removal, both nitrification and denitrification, is employed for removal of ammonia from wastewaters. While this process is predictable in the case of municipal wastewaters, many industrial wastewaters are inhibitory to the nitrifying organisms.

Volatile organics can be removed by air or steam stripping. Air stripping is achieved by using packed or tray towers in which air and water counterflow through the tower. In steam stripping, the liquid effluent from the column is separated as an azeotropic mixture. See Stripping

Virtually all of the processes employed for industrial wastewater treatment generate a sludge that requires some means of disposal. In general, the processes employed for thickening and dewatering are the same as those used in municipal wastewater treatment. Waste activated sludge is usually stabilized by aerobic digestion in which the degradable solids are oxidized by prolonged aeration.

Most landfill leachates have high and variable concentrations of organic and inorganic substances. All municipal and most industrial landfill leachates are amenable to biological treatment and can be treated anaerobically or aerobically, depending on the effluent quality desired. Activated carbon has been employed to remove nondegradable organics. In Europe, some plants employ reverse osmosis to produce a high-quality effluent.

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