Extractive Nutrient Recovery is a Viable Nutrient Control Alternative for WRRFs


  • Ronald Latimer PE, Wendell. O. Khunjar PhD - Hazen and Sawyer
  • Samuel Jeyanayagam PhD, PE, BCEE - CH2M HILL
  • Chirag Mehta PhD, Damien Batstone PhD - The University of Queensland

Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are essential elements of all life forms and are extensively used in synthetic fertilizer production. These nutrients once incorporated into crops are ingested and reintroduced to the environment via liquid and solid wastestreams. To avoid the accumulation of these nutrients in the environment, N and P is removed prior to discharge to a water body. In this scenario, energy and other non-renewable resources are used to replenish nutrient supply for agricultural uses and again to remove these nutrients from wastewater before discharge to the environment. This approach to nutrient management assumes a linear usage cycle which inherently posits that energy and resources are cheap and renewable. This is not the case.

Instead, recovery and reuse of nutrients provides us with an opportunity to reduce our reliance on nutrient cycling and fundamentally change the way that wastestreams are managed. Indeed, nutrient recovery and reuse is not a new concept. It has been applied in different forms in the past e.g., land application of biosolids and reuse of secondary effluent for irrigation; however, extraction of a chemical nutrient product with low organic matter content, defined here as extractive nutrient recovery, has not been widely applied within the wastewater treatment industry.

This paper presents technical information generated as part of a global study funded by the Water Environment Research Federation (WERF) aimed at enabling the advancement of extractive nutrient recovery. The material presented will include performance data, lessons learned, plant-wide impacts, integration issues, barriers to advancing nutrient recovery, and how they can be overcome.

For more information, please contact the author at rlatimer@hazenandsawyer.com.

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