Membrane bioreactor treatment of household light greywater : measurement and effects of phosphorus limitation
Van Epps, Amanda Jane
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As water stresses increase across the U.S., interest in household water reuse is growing. Such reuse typically focuses on light greywater, that is all wastewater generated in the house excluding toilet waste and kitchen wastewater. As this practice becomes more widespread, higher level reuse is expected to require greater greywater treatment prior to reuse. Membrane bioreactors (MBRs) are an attractive technology for this application because they offer a robust combination of treatment processes and are already used in some households in countries such as Japan. This research sought to understand the role of phosphorus availability in determining the quality of effluent from MBR treatment of light greywater because phosphorus concentrations are expected to be low with phosphorus phased out of many consumer products. Less than 30 [mu]g/L of dissolved orthophosphate was present in synthetic greywater made from three common household products, and no measurable amount of dissolved orthophosphate was found in real greywater, but low concentrations of particulate phosphate were detected. These concentrations were well below levels believed necessary to achieve full BOD₅ removal in biological treatment. Nevertheless, MBR performance was not adversely affected until no supplemental phosphorus was provided. Measurement of extracellular enzyme activity showed an increase in the ratio of phosphatase activity to total glycosidase activity with declining phosphorus concentration, providing an early indication of nutrient stress before changes in effluent water quality were detected. Removal of three xenobiotic organic compounds (XOCs) in treatment of synthetic greywater was also evaluated under conditions of phosphorous limitation and balance. Abiotic removal mechanisms were not deemed to be important, but removal of methylparaben and sodium lauryl sulfate via biodegradation responded to nutrient limitation similarly to overall COD removal while removal of diethyl phthalate was affected to a greater extent. Measurement of plasmid DNA concentrations was evaluated as a potential indicator of the effect of nutrient limitation on plasmid-mediated biodegradation of XOCs. An overall reduction in the plasmid content was observed in all cases under conditions of phosphorus limitation; however, the extent of reduction was reactor dependent.