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Tertiary Treatment of Ayr Municipal Wastewater using Bioremediation: A Pilot-Scale Study. A Report Prepared for the Burdekin Shire Council and the Burdekin Rangeland Reef Initiative

Willett, D. (2003) Tertiary Treatment of Ayr Municipal Wastewater using Bioremediation: A Pilot-Scale Study. A Report Prepared for the Burdekin Shire Council and the Burdekin Rangeland Reef Initiative. Project Report. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Bribie Island, Queensland.



This joint DPI/Burdekin Shire Council project assessed the efficacy of a pilot-scale biological remediation system to recover Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorous (P) nutrients from secondary treated municipal wastewater at the Ayr Sewage Treatment Plant. Additionally, this study considered potential commercial uses for by-products from the treatment system. Knowledge gained from this study can provide directions for implementing a larger-scale final effluent treatment protocol on site at the Ayr plant. Trials were conducted over 10 months and assessed nutrient removal from duckweed-based treatments and an algae/fish treatment – both as sequential and as stand-alone treatment systems.

A 42.3% reduction in Total N was found through the sequential treatment system (duckweed followed by algae/fish treatment) after 6.6 days Effluent Retention Time (E.R.T.). However, duckweed treatment was responsible for the majority of this nutrient recovery (7.8 times more effective than algae/fish treatment). Likewise, Total P reduction (15.75% reduction after 6.6 days E.R.T.) was twice as great in the duckweed treatment. A phytoplankton bloom, which developed in the algae/fish tanks, reduced nutrient recovery in this treatment.

A second trial tested whether the addition of fish enhanced duckweed treatment by evaluating systems with and without fish. After four weeks operation, low DO under the duckweed blanket caused fish mortalities. Decomposition of these fish led to an additional organic load and this was reflected in a breakdown of nitrogen species that showed an increase in organic nitrogen. However, the Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN: ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) removal was similar between treatments with and without fish (57% and 59% DIN removal from incoming, respectively).
Overall, three effluent residence times were evaluated using duckweed-based treatments; i.e. 3.5 days, 5.5 days and 10.4 days. Total N removal was 37.5%, 55.7% and 70.3%, respectively. The 10.4-day E.R.T. trial, however, was evaluated by sequential nutrient removal through the duckweed-minus-fish treatment followed by the duckweed-plus-fish treatment. Therefore, the 70.3% Total N removal was lower than could have been achieved at this retention time due to the abovementioned fish mortalities. Phosphorous removal from duckweed treatments was greatest after 10.4-days E.R.T. (13.6%). Plant uptake was considered the most important mechanism for this P removal since there was no clay substrate in the plastic tanks that could have contributed to P absorption as part of the natural phosphorous cycle.

Duckweed inhibited phytoplankton production (therefore reducing T.S.S) and maintained pH close to neutral. DO beneath the duckweed blanket fell to below 1ppm; however, this did not limit plant production. If fish are to be used as part of the duckweed treatment, air-uplifts can be installed that maintain DO levels without disturbing surface waters. Duckweed grown in the treatments doubled its biomass on average every 5.7 days. On a per-surface area basis, 1.23kg/m2 was harvested weekly. Moisture content of duckweed was 92%, equating to a total dry weight harvest of 0.098kg/m2/week. Nutrient analysis of dried duckweed gave an N content of 6.67% and a P content of 1.27%. According to semi-quantitative analyses, harvested duckweed contained no residual elements from the effluent stream that were greater than ANZECC toxicant guidelines proposed for aquaculture. In addition, jade perch, a local aquaculture species, actively consumed and gained weight on harvested duckweed, suggesting potential for large-scale fish production using by-products from the effluent treatment process.

This suggests that a duckweed-based system may be one viable option for tertiary treatment of Ayr municipal wastewater. The tertiary detention lagoon proposed by the Burdekin Shire Council, consisting of six bays approximately 290 x 35 metres (x 1.5 metres deep), would be suitable for duckweed culture with minor modification to facilitate the efficient distribution of duckweed plants across the entire available growing surface (such as floating containment grids). The effluent residence time resulting from this proposed configuration (~30 days) should be adequate to recover most effluent nutrients (certainly N) based on the current trial. Duckweed harvest techniques on this scale, however, need to be further investigated. Based on duckweed production in the current trial (1.23kg/m2/week), a weekly harvest of approximately 75 000kg (wet weight) could be expected from the proposed lagoon configuration under full duckweed production. A benefit of the proposed multi-bay lagoon is that full lagoon production of duckweed may not be needed to restore effluent to a desirable standard under the present nutrient load, and duckweed treatment may be restricted to certain bays. Restored effluent could be released without risk of contaminating the receiving waterway with duckweed by evacuating water through an internal standpipe located mid-way in the water column.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Funders:Burdekin Shire Council and the Burdekin Rangeland Reef Initiative
Projects:Queensland Aquaculture Development Initiative
Additional Information:© The State of Queensland
Keywords:Sewage; fish; duckweed; bioremediation.
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Aquaculture
Live Archive:08 Aug 2011 05:09
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:43

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