Precipitation Flocculation

Precipitation involves transforming a water-soluble substance into its insoluble particular form by means of a chemical reaction. Certain chemicals cause precipitation when they react with dissolved and suspended organic compounds. By adding flocculants and coagulation aids, the finest suspended compounds or those dissolved in colloidal form are then transformed into a separable form. This means that, in contrast to precipitation, flocculation is not a phase-transition process [38]. The wastewater may be further treated by activated carbon, ultrafiltration, or reverse osmosis. Figure 16 gives a general concept of the precipitation-flocculation process.

Iron sulfate and aluminum sulfate are commonly used as efficient chelating agents of complex organic compounds in certain wastewaters [68]. Their adsorption capacity is complex and depends on the composition of the precipitated molecule. Lime stabilization is a recognized means of treating municipal sludge prior to land application [69]. The addition of lime temporarily halts biological activity. Moreover, lime renders organic molecules more accessible to microorganisms [70].

In wastewater from olive oil mills (OMW), a purification efficiency of almost 70% of the organic and inorganic components could be removed or complexed by lime (calcium

hydroxide) [24]. Disadvantages include the high consumption of chemicals and the large quantities of sludge formed in the process (about 20% of treated alpechin) [38]. For more information about the efficiency of lime and iron as complexing agents in removing COD and color from OMW, refer to the case study presented in Section 17.5.11 (Decolorization).

A proposed plant in Madrid for combined precipitation/flocculation treatment of OMW is presented as a good example of a complete treatment system [38]. This system consists of four phases. In the first phase, a flocculent is added, followed by discharge, filtration, or

Stages Decolorization
Figure 16 Precipitation-flocculation processes in general (from Ref. 38).

centrifugation. The resulting liquid has a dark red color, and its BOD5 is about 10,000 mg/L. In the second phase, another flocculation occurs where the smaller size of the flocs are separated through filtration, and its BOD5 reaches 8000 mg/L. The sludge from these two stages combined is 12% of the original alpechin. The third phase is biological and occurs in three or four stages in purification towers with a separation device for the solids (biomass) and biomass recirculation. The resulting wastewater has a BOD5 of 2000 mg/L. The fourth phase consists of the filtration of the wastewater, ultrafiltration, and reverse osmosis. The concentrated and thickened sludge from the previous phase is then dried by means of band filters for further use as fertilizer.

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