Globally, there is a dire need for a new class of advanced non-sewered sanitation systems (NSSS) to provide onsite wastewater treatment that is capable of meeting stringent discharge or reuse criteria. These systems need to be simple to operate and maintain, reliable, and resilient to unreliable electrical service. The NEWgenerator (NG) is a compact, automated, solar-powered wastewater treatment system comprised of three major treatment processes: anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR), nutrient capture system (NCS) with ion exchange and carbon sorption, and electrochlorination (EC). The NG system operated at an informal settlement community in South Africa over a 534 d period, treating high-strength blackwater (BW) and yellow water (YW) from a public toilet facility. Over three test stages (BW, BW + YW, BW) that included several periods of dormancy, the NG system was able to provide a high level of removal of total suspended solids (97.6 ± 3.1%), chemical oxygen demand (94.5 ± 5.0%), turbidity (96.3 ± 9.7%), color (92.0 ± 10.5%), total nitrogen (82.1 ± 24.0%), total phosphorus (43.0 ± 22.1%), E. coli (7.4 ± 1.5 LRV, not detected in effluent), and helminth ova (not detected in effluent). The treatment levels met most of the ISO 30500 NSSS standard for liquid effluent and local water reuse criteria. A series of maintenance events were successfully conducted onsite over the 534 d field trial: two membrane cleanings, two NCS regenerations, and granular activated carbon replacement. Desludging, a major pain point for onsite sanitation systems, was unnecessary during the field trial and thereby not performed. The AnMBR performed well, removing 94.5 ± 5.0% of the influent COD across all three stages. The high COD removal rate is attributed to the sub-micron separation provided by the ultrafiltration membrane. The NCS was highly efficient at removing total nitrogen, residual COD and color, but the regeneration process was lengthy and is a topic of ongoing research. The EC provided effective disinfection, but frequent prolonged run cycles due to power supply and water quality issues upstream limited the overall system hydraulic throughput. This extended field trial under actual ambient conditions successfully demonstrated the feasibility of using advanced NSSS to address the global water and sanitation crises.
Keywords: Anaerobic membrane bioreactor; Decentralized; ISO 30500; MURT; Off-grid; Onsite wastewater treatment; Reinvented toilet.
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