Treating Landfill Black Water

By Nicholas Eckelberry, Jean-Louis Kindler, Stephen Jan 16 November, 2016

Eckelberry, Kindler & Jan of OriginClear share a new treatment for landfill leachate, a highly polluting effluent

Landfill leachate is now under new China EPA standards; mainstream treatment is inefficient & costly in the long term
EWS:AOx™ provides an alternative treatment; average COD reduction of 77% & NH3 removal of 90% in pilots
OpEx factors remain but more research to follow

Landfill leachate, or “black water”, which is created when rain or ground water percolates through the mass of mixed municipal and industrial waste in landfills, has come under new China EPA water discharge standards. The country has implemented new rules for discharge and is funding the effort to modernize the methods and systems for handling this effluent.

Landfill leachate, or “black water”, is now under new China EPA water discharge standards

Mainstream treatment solutions for landfill leachate in most cases include the use of biological processes. These processes are indeed efficient and economical when treating low to medium organic contamination loads in relatively stable quality wastewater streams such as municipal wastewater, but also show their limitations in terms of long term efficiency and cost when applied to leachate treatment.
black water 4
Authorities, agencies and industry stakeholders in China and other countries are actively looking for alternative solutions to the treatment of this effluent, which is one of the most highly contaminated and highly complex byproducts of industrial operations.
Electro Water Separation with Advanced Oxidation (EWS:AOx™), which OriginClear developed in the United States, is a sequential combination of electrically induced gas flotation (EWS) and advanced oxidation (AOx). AOx relies on in-situ generated powerful oxidants, resulting from known chemical reactions occurring when the wastewater stream contacts a series of specifically designed electrodes.

Biological treatment has limitations; EWS:AOxTM is a fast & versatile option

It is a fast, versatile and low maintenance process using minimal electricity and a relatively small, optimized quantity of simple chemical additives like NaOH whose component atoms are part of, and vanish with, process reactions. In China, OriginClear cooperates with local engineering firms to propose integrating EWS:AOx™ in sequence with downstream treatment solutions, resulting in a complete solution.
The firm and its partners have conducted a series of demonstrations and tests in East Asia to further confirm that the process can and does address landfill leachate treatment issues, while also defining process parameters for full size commercial systems. This in turns allows us to estimate the operation’s financials, both as to Capital Expenditure (CapEx) and Operating Expenses (OpEx). CapEx being subject to system size and manufacturing conditions, we chose not to discuss this point here, but we estimated an average OpEx based on the process parameters defined during these various tests.

On-site demonstration in Northern China

The goal for this initial demonstration was to reduce COD from 10,000 to 100 and Ammonia (NH4) from the mid 3000 ppm to below 8. The user considered current technology (DTRO membrane) as not effective and costly due to the high rate of replacement cartridges.
Our mission was to show proof of concept of technology in a flow-through scenario, live and in real time. At this point, neither CapEx nor OpEx was considered, but obviously would come into play should the demonstration show EWS to be a viable technology.
The demonstration took place at a rural northern China city landfill. Leachate discharge is 2000 tonnes/day, with very few amenities. The site is remote, with sub-zero temperatures in winter.

There are 4 key stages of treatment

The pilot system here has been designed as a combination of EWS:AOx™ modules and polishing units (ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis), arranged in a specific sequence to obtain maximum treatment efficiency from each module. This is shown in the schematic diagram below.

Full system process flow diagram 5
Below is an overview of the process:

1. The process sequence starts with an electro-flotation phase in the A25 EWS Flotation unit, where suspended solids are removed out of the water stream. A “mat” of micron-sized gas bubbles lifts the suspended solids up to the water surface where it can be raked off (see image 1)

2. Then the product water is sent through an ultra-filtration (UF) system to remove the final traces of suspended solids (image 2), for a better efficiency of the following step, Advanced Oxidation

3. Once fully clarified, the water undergoes Advanced Oxidation (AOx) process in the A12 AOx module (image 3), where dissolved contaminants are oxidized and mineralized. AOx is an electrochemical process where strong oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide, ozone, hydroxyl radicals or chlorine compounds are generated in situ, without any chemical addition

4. The final step, Reverse Osmosis, will handle the remaining contaminants with increased efficiency as the bulk of contamination, including bacteria that causes fouling in RO membranes, will have been removed.

Lab results EWS:AOx™ output prior to Reverse Osmosis
Despite some limitations with the machines used in this pilot, the EWS:AOx™ modules chain has clearly demonstrated its ability to abate the major contamination factors that can be found in landfill leachate, as shown in the table below.

75% drop in COD levels & 70% drop in ammonia levels after treatment

drop table

Further tests and demonstrations

The composition and contamination levels of landfill leachate, like the Municipal Solid Waste where it originates, significantly change with each site’s geographical location (local food culture, recycling habits, etc…), as well as landfill age. Due to the inherent variability of this application, further pilots needed to be conducted to determine a standardized solution for most landfills.
In addition to the initial on-site demonstration, several pilots have been arranged using leachate from various sources and ages to best assess the versatility and ability of EWS:AOx™ to handle influent variability.
For ease of handling, subsequent tests were done in EWS:AOx™ lab cells (each module cell having a batch treatment capability of 4 liters). The most significant results are summarized in the table below:

Pilots in China & Malaysia also show significant pollutant reductions …
…average COD reduction of 77%

Cost factors
Due to the high variability in composition, treatment methods as well as local discharge requirements, little information is available on landfill treatment costs. However, the table below1 suggests a marginal cost bracket between USD 8.91/m3 (MBR or CAS to POTW) and USD94.5/m3 (CAS+RO to local discharge). Interviews with end-users in China suggest that existing leachate treatment OpEx range between USD10 and USD15 per tonne.

Interviews with end-users in China suggest that existing leachate treatment OpEx range between USD10 & USD15 per tonne

The major operating cost factors of EWS:AOx™ are electricity, the appropriately optimized pH adjustment and, if needed, coagulation enhancement additives. While the present document does not claim to be exhaustive and reflect an exact comparison with the cost figures given above, field and lab tests added to other experiments realized with different wastewater feedstocks suggest the following total operation costs:

3 main operating cost factors: electricity, pH adjustment & coagulation enhancement additives

Table 4

Promising remediation seen and more research to follow

EWS:AOx™ shows promise in remediating not just leachate, but any industrial wastewater with a high contaminant load. The combination of reactor tubes with high shear and contact zones, electro-induced flotation and Advanced Oxidation demonstrated its efficiency not only as a stand-alone system, but also for reducing the load on polishing systems such as membranes or Reverse Osmosis units. Separate tests have pointed to a significant reduction in membrane fouling.

Further options e.g. retrofitting existing flotation units being explored

Construction engineering is currently exploring options for retrofitting existing flotation units, as well as responsive residence time and energy input combinations to enable AOx to adapt to contamination load variations over long periods of time.


Further Reading

  • Fashion to Solve China’s Plastic Problem – With most PET made for fibres and not bottles, fashion is a big contributor to the plastic problem but it can also be part of the solution as Sondra Kim from Waste2Wear tells us. The company turns plastic waste into sustainable & high quality clothes
  • Financing Water Resilience: Climate Bonds for China – Green or “climate” bonds is a rapidly growing market but there are verification concerns plus gaps for water-related investments. AGWA’s John Matthews & Climate Bond Initiative’s Anna Creed & Lily Dai introduce the new water climate bond standard that addresses these issues
  • Water PPPs To Lead In China – All new water & wastewater projects in China need to follow the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model. Will this mean big change and how have other water-related projects been funded in China? China Water Risk’s Yuanchao Xu takes a look
  • 8 Things To Know About Recycling Water – Recycling water could alleviate some of China’s water challenges. Yet, only 10% of its treated wastewater is recycled. Not sure what reclaimed water is? Check out China Water Risk’s 8 things you should know
  • Can We Build A Clean & Smart Future On Toxic Rare Earths? – Almost all smart, green & clean tech need rare earths to work, but mining & processing these are highly polluting. Lead author Liu of China Water Risk’s new report:  “Rare Earths: Shades Of Grey” explores this paradox. It is time to rethink our clean & smart future
  • Changing Filters: Benefits of AFM vs Sand – Sand filters are the primary means of treatment but there are performance & stability issues. Dr Howard Dryden, inventor of the up-cycled AFM® filter tells us how his filter means lower costs & bacteria & longer life
  • Wastewater to Energy in Urumqi – In Urumqi, China water & energy demand has increased due to rapid growth. Veolia’s Nina Cambadelis on how they upgraded a wastewater treatment plant in Urumqi to produce biogas from the digestion of sewage sludge
  • 8 Facts on China’s Wastewater – Don’t know anything about wastewater in China? Is it on the rise? Is industrial wastewater under-reported? Is it worse for rural areas? Check out our 8 facts from tech, key pollutants to standards
Nicholas Eckelberry
Author: Nicholas Eckelberry
Nicholas Eckelberry is co-founder of OriginClear and continues to consult as its chief inventor. He is also consulting to OriginClear licensee, ECT Services & Solutions Inc., as it rolls out a pilot site in the Kern County oil fields. Nicholas is responsible for inventing OriginClear’s proprietary Electro Water Separation (EWS) technology, the high-speed, chemical free process to extract organic contaminants and valuable materials from large quantities of water. (All patents are assigned to OriginClear.) In all, Nicholas Eckelberry has authored or co-authored fourteen separate inventions in the field of algae production and waste water cleanup. Nicholas is also responsible for the development and launch of Nano-Cal in 2003, a product line based around a uniquely formulated and highly bio-available form of calcium. Recently, Biofuels Digest ranked him one of the Top 300 People in the Bioeconomy for 2013-2014
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Jean-Louis Kindler
Author: Jean-Louis Kindler
Jean-Louis (“JL”) Kindler is President of OriginClear Technologies and leads the commercialization of OriginClear’s breakthrough water treatment technology. Mr. Kindler is a veteran of 25 years as both a top executive and engineer in environmental technologies. Before OriginClear, JL was co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Ennesys, the company’s French joint venture, where he designed its patent-pending waste-to-energy system. Earlier, as founding CEO of MHS Equipment, a French nanotechnologies equipment manufacturing firm (42 M€, 360 employees in 2008), he led the development of a breakthrough fuel cell process. And earlier still, his twenty-year career in Japan gave him unique insight into fast-growing Asian markets. There, as principal of technology incubator Pacific Junction, Jean-Louis completed various assignments. These included technology sourcing for the French industrial group GEC-Altshom, building the first commercial unit of the Blue Tower, a breakthrough hydrogen production system using waste biomass feedstock, and market development for a fluids mixing technology that helped inspire early OriginClear inventions. Jean-Louis holds a Master’s in Economics and Public Policy from the Institute of Political Science in Lyon, France, and an MBA in International Management in Paris.
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Stephen Jan
Author: Stephen Jan
Stephen Jan is Director of OriginClear Technologies and one of the first members of the group’s team in this region of the world. Mr. Jan, a Taiwanese national, boasts dual experience in chemical process automation and industrial wastewater treatment technologies. His 20+ year career in wastewater treatment led him to manage projects in various countries in Asia, including China, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia. His achievements include the emergency cleaning of a 150,000-ton body of water in Guangzhou during the 2010 Asia Olympics, or the successful treatment, via biological methods, of a 3000 m3 per day effluent from a textile dyeing factory. Mr. Jan today leads the business development of OriginClear in Asia with a particular focus on China. He holds a master’s degree in Electronics Engineering from the National Taipei Technology University.
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