What operational benefits and political motivation persuade utilities to install nutrient recovery systems?
Utilities are looking for sustainable, wastewater treatment solutions. Increasingly, utilities are implementing nutrient recovery systems to address environmental concerns and economic challenges, both with political impact. Nutrient pollution is a matter of a dislocated resource: we need nutrients to grow the food we eat, but nutrients in the water environment cause oxygen deficiency and hypoxia (dead zones.) Nutrient recovery systems prevent nutrients from being discharged into the water environment by recovering and returning them to the agronomic cycle.
In fact, from an operational point of view, nutrient recovery is essential to help a utility meet its effluent phosphorus limits. When biological phosphorus removal is combined with anaerobic digestion, a natural phenomenon occurs which returns most of the phosphorus removed in the activated sludge process back to the treatment plant in the solids handling liquid side stream. A vicious cycle occurs where phosphorus is removed, released, and returned. Nutrient recovery breaks this cycle, replacing it with a virtuous cycle where phosphorus is removed, released, and recovered.
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