Integrating algaculture into small wastewater treatment plants: process flow options and life cycle impacts†
Algaculture has the potential to be a sustainable option for nutrient removal at wastewater treatment plants. The purpose of this study was to compare the environmental impacts of three likely algaculture integration strategies to a conventional nutrient removal strategy. Process modeling was used to determine life cycle inventory data and a comparative life cycle assessment was used to determine environmental impacts. Treatment scenarios included a base case treatment plant without nutrient removal, a plant with conventional nutrient removal, and three other cases with algal unit processes placed at the head of the plant, in a side stream, and at the end of the plant, respectively. Impact categories included eutrophication, global warming, ecotoxicity, and primary energy demand. Integrating algaculture prior to activated sludge proved to be most beneficial of the scenarios considered for all impact categories; however, this scenario would also require primary sedimentation and impacts of that unit process should be considered for implementation of such a system.