Phosphorus reduction in wastewater using microalgae with different phosphorus starvation periods
Sammanfattning: Anthropogenic induced nutrients in the Baltic Sea have led to 97% of it being eutrophic. Phosphorus is regarded the main regulating nutrient, and nearly 25% of the nutrients coming to the Baltic Sea originate from wastewater treatment plants. To reduce the nutrient concentrations in the effluents from treatment plants, tertiary treatment methods based on chemical dosing have been the principal answer. The chemicals create a sludge in addition to remediating the water, which needs disposal. Methods for remediating secondary wastewater with microalgae exist but are not common in conventional wastewater treatment. However, using microalgae could be beneficial, since they use inorganic carbon (from the atmosphere and wastewater) and inorganic nutrients, while producing biomass and oxygen. The biomass in turn has a potential to be used in production of bioenergy, food, and fertilizers. This thesis investigated whether pre-phosphorus starvation of five different microalgae strains enhanced the removal rate of phosphorus from secondary wastewater. The aim was to determine the optimal starvation period of different algae strains and to achieve wastewater effluent concentrations below 0.1 mg/L at the shortest possible time. Algae were transferred to a phosphorus-free media for five, three, one and zero days before entering the wastewater in a batch reactor at a temperature of 27°C and a 16:8 hours light and dark regime. Phosphate and nitrate concentrations as well as biomass production were monitored during a period of ten days. The experiment was repeated three times using Chlorella Vulgaris and two times using Tetradesmus Obliquus, Ankistrodesmus Falcatus, Botryococcus Braunii and one time using Desmodesmus Communis. The secondary wastewater was obtained from a small wastewater treatment plant from the village Roja in Latvia. Prior to the experiments, it was filtered three times through filters with different pore sizes (the smallest pore size was 0.2 µm), and the average nitrate and phosphate concentrations were 21.3 ± 1.1 mg/L and 17.8 ± 0.56 mg/L, respectively. The nitrate to phosphate ratio was 1.8:1. It was possible to remove the inorganic phosphorus to concentrations below 0.1 mg/L within ten days, although it did not happen in all the reactors. It was found that in most cases pre-phosphorus-starvation increased the removal rate of phosphorus. For two of the strains, Chlorella Vulgaris and Ankistrodesmus Falcatus, the three-day of pre-starvation period was optimal, while two to three days was optimal for Tetradesmus Obliquus, compared to other pre-starvation periods. For Botryococcus Braunii the one-day and the zero-days starved batches removed the phosphorus most efficiently. For Chlorella Vulgaris and Ankistrodesmus falcatus nearly a 100% of the phosphorus was removed within seven days after three days of pre-starvation. Without pre-starvation, these strains achieved the same result after ten days. It was also found that the nitrogen was the limiting nutrient in the wastewater and that the different strains responded differently to the changes in environment brought on by the experiment. When using microalgae in wastewater treatment, the choice of strain greatly impacts the removal rate, as the likeliness for them to survive in a specific environment varies among strains. It was concluded that using microalgae as a wastewater treatment method could pose great benefits. However, more experiments with colder climate, non-pre-filtered wastewater, a less nutrient rich media, greater initial biomass concentrations and pilot tests are recommended. Another insight from this thesis was that the method for transferring algae between different media needs to be refined to reach the target concentration in a reactor (or other setup).
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