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Impacts of NF concentrate recirculation on membrane performance in an integrated MBR and NF membrane process for wastewater treatment

Kappel, C., Kemperman, A.J.B., Temmink, H., Zwijnenburg, A., Rijnaarts, H.H.M., Nijmeijer, K.
Journal of membrane science 2014 v.453 pp. 359-368
activated sludge, artificial membranes, cleaning, fouling, humic acids, membrane bioreactors, nanofiltration, viruses, wastewater, wastewater treatment, water reuse, water shortages
As water shortages are increasing, the need for sustainable water treatment and the reuse of water is essential. Water reuse from wastewater can be accomplished in a membrane bioreactor (MBR) in the secondary activated sludge stage of a wastewater treatment plant. To remove viruses, dissolved organics and inorganics still present in the MBR permeate, nanofiltration (NF) can be applied. Nevertheless, the major drawback of nanofiltration membranes is the production of a concentrate stream that cannot be discharged to the environment. In this research we investigate the concept of a combined MBR and NF system with NF concentrate recirculation back to the MBR to produce reusable water in a sustainable way. Long-term continuous operation (1 year) shows that the NF permeate quality is not impacted by the recirculation. Fouling on the NF membrane is mostly the result of inorganics, while organics (e.g. humic acids) do not have a major impact on NF fouling. In fact, the flux of the NF was enhanced by the presence of humic acids due to recirculation. However, the MBR showed increased fouling and consequently more frequent membrane cleaning. The results presented show that the continuous production of reusable water from wastewater in a combined MBR and NF process with NF concentrate recirculation can be successful.