Advanced techniques for the upgrading of waste stabilisation pond effluent: rock filtration; duckweed; and attached-growth media

Author: Michael Douglas Short

Short, Michael Douglas, 2008 Advanced techniques for the upgrading of waste stabilisation pond effluent: rock filtration; duckweed; and attached-growth media, Flinders University, School of Medicine

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Waste Stabilisation Ponds (WSPs) are a relatively simplistic and non-intensive wastewater treatment technology; with various WSP configurations widely employed to treat a range of different wastewaters the world over. Whilst the advantages of WSP treatment are both numerous and well recognized, performance problems relating to the presence of occasionally large and unpredictable quantities of plankton (both algal and zooplankton) biomass in the final pond effluents have posed significant operational problems for WSP operators; with this suspended biomass representing the single biggest drawback associated with the technology. Research conducted during this project was concerned with assessing a selection of so-called ‘advanced’ in-pond treatment processes for the upgrading or polishing of a final WSP effluent. The particular research emphasis was on the removal of problematic algal and zooplankton biomass from WSP effluent prior to Dissolved Air Flotation/Filtration (DAF/F) treatment and wastewater reuse at the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) north of Adelaide. The in situ WSP upgrade systems assessed in this thesis were: the native floating plant ‘Duckweed’ (DW); ‘Rock Filters’ (RFs); and an artificial ‘Attached-Growth Media’ (AGM); all of which were assessed for their relative treatment efficacies parallel to a non-interventional ‘Open Pond’ (OP) system which served as an effective control. These performance comparisons were assessed on a pilot-scale using a custom made pilot treatment plant which was located at the Bolivar WWTP. Performance monitoring was periodically carried out over a 12 month period from July 2005–August 2006, with algal and zooplankton populations monitored in addition to the more conventional wastewater quality parameters. Results from pilot plant investigations demonstrated that of the four pilot upgrade series, the RF and AGM systems displayed the greatest treatment potential in terms of both the magnitude and reliability of suspended solids, algal and zooplankton biomass removals. The DW system was also shown to be at least as effective and in some instances significantly more advanced than the uncovered OP system in terms of its ability to significantly improve the final effluent quality of the Bolivar WSPs. Both the RF and AGM upgrades (and to a lesser degree also the DW system) were found to offer considerable potential for producing a higher quality WSP effluent for more efficient processing by the Bolivar DAF/F plant; although there were various operational advantages and disadvantages as well as varying capital establishment costs associated with each of the candidate technologies. This part of the research represented the first direct performance comparison between two popular pond upgrade technologies (i.e. RFs and DW) and also constituted the first assessment of a novel AGM for the upgrading of tertiary-level WSP effluent. In addition to this, results from ecological performance monitoring also provided the first detailed insights into algal and zooplankton population dynamics within these WSP upgrade environments. In addition to these pilot-scale WSP upgrade performance investigations, another branch of the research project investigated additional research questions regarding the survival of algal cells within these pond upgrade environments. A series of laboratory experiments attempted to recreate the in situ conditions (in terms of light and oxygen availability) that might exist within the adopted upgrade environments. Using two common WSP algal species, long-term monitoring of the physiological status of phytoplankton cells during prolonged dark-exposure under conditions of reduced oxygen availability was performed in order to assess the likely effects of these particular environmental conditions on their survival potential in situ. Results from these laboratory-based experiments showed that both algal species were capable of quickly adjusting their cellular metabolism in response to dark incubation. Results also showed that a reduced environmental oxygen concentration (25% of saturation) had no bearing on the ability of either Chlorella or Chlamydomonas species to withstand long-term dark-exposure; with both species retaining what was essentially full biological viability following up to two months of continuous dark-exposure. In an applied context, these results suggested that subjecting algal cells to conditions of simultaneous darkness and reduced oxygen availability would be expected to have no significant adverse effects on algal survivorship within an advanced in-pond upgrade system such as a duckweed-covered WSP, a rock filter or an AGM system.

Keywords: waste stabilisation pond,duckweed,rock filter,attached-growth media,algae,zooplankton,phytoplankton dark survival,flow hydraulics
Subject: Environmental Health thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2008
School: School of Medicine
Supervisor: Professor Howard Fallowfield