Environmental Sciences Fair Project
Do plants in a natural sewage treatment system absorb phosphates and nitrates?


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Project Information
Title: How does the growth of plants in a natural sewage treatment system affect how well it absorbs phosphates and nitrates?
Subject: Environmental Sciences
Grade level: Middle School - Grades 7-9
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Low
Awards: 2nd place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair ($50)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Year: 2010
Description: In this project, are measured and compared the phosphate and nitrate levels at the entrance and exit of the natural sewage treatment system by using a phosphate colorimeter.
Link: www.virtualsciencefair.org...
Background

Sewage Treatment

Sewage treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff (effluents) and domestic. It includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants. Its objective is to produce an environmentally-safe fluid waste stream (or treated effluent) and a solid waste (or treated sludge) suitable for disposal or reuse (usually as farm fertilizer). Using advanced technology it is now possible to re-use sewage effluent for drinking water, although Singapore is the only country to implement such technology on a production scale in its production of NEWater.

Sewage can be treated close to where it is created, a decentralised system, (in septic tanks, biofilters or aerobic treatment systems), or be collected and transported via a network of pipes and pump stations to a municipal treatment plant, a centralised system, (see sewerage and pipes and infrastructure). Sewage collection and treatment is typically subject to local, state and federal regulations and standards. Industrial sources of wastewater often require specialized treatment processes.

Sewage treatment generally involves three stages, called primary, secondary and tertiary treatment.

  • Primary treatment consists of temporarily holding the sewage in a quiescent basin where heavy solids can settle to the bottom while oil, grease and lighter solids float to the surface. The settled and floating materials are removed and the remaining liquid may be discharged or subjected to secondary treatment.
  • Secondary treatment removes dissolved and suspended biological matter. Secondary treatment is typically performed by indigenous, water-borne micro-organisms in a managed habitat. Secondary treatment may require a separation process to remove the micro-organisms from the treated water prior to discharge or tertiary treatment.
  • Tertiary treatment is sometimes defined as anything more than primary and secondary treatment in order to allow rejection into a highly sensitive or fragile ecosystem (estuaries, low-flow rivers, coral reefs,...). Treated water is sometimes disinfected chemically or physically (for example, by lagoons and microfiltration) prior to discharge into a stream, river, bay, lagoon or wetland, or it can be used for the irrigation of a golf course, green way or park. If it is sufficiently clean, it can also be used for groundwater recharge or agricultural purposes.

Phosphorus Removal

Phosphorus removal is important as it is a limiting nutrient for algae growth in many fresh water systems. It is also particularly important for water reuse systems where high phosphorus concentrations may lead to fouling of downstream equipment such as reverse osmosis.

Phosphorus can be removed biologically in a process called enhanced biological phosphorus removal. In this process, specific bacteria, called polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs), are selectively enriched and accumulate large quantities of phosphorus within their cells (up to 20 percent of their mass). When the biomass enriched in these bacteria is separated from the treated water, these biosolids have a high fertilizer value.

Phosphorus removal can also be achieved by chemical precipitation, usually with salts of iron (e.g. ferric chloride), aluminum (e.g. alum), or lime. This may lead to excessive sludge production as hydroxides precipitates and the added chemicals can be expensive. Chemical phosphorus removal requires significantly smaller equipment footprint than biological removal, is easier to operate and is often more reliable than biological phosphorus removal . Another method for phosphorus removal is to use granular laterite.

Once removed, phosphorus, in the form of a phosphate-rich sludge, may be stored in a land fill or resold for use in fertilizer.

Nitrogen Removal

The removal of nitrogen is effected through the biological oxidation of nitrogen from ammonia to nitrate (nitrification), followed by denitrification, the reduction of nitrate to nitrogen gas. Nitrogen gas is released to the atmosphere and thus removed from the water.

For More Information: Sewage Treatment

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

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