How phosphorous can be extracted with a Quick Wash

3 min read

It can be extracted from solid waste streams at both municipal waste water treatment facilities as well as livestock farms but unless treated correctly, it can become a pollutant. It was a problem overcome by Renewable Nutrients at a United States waste facility.

Renewable Nutrients’ Quick Wash mobile pilot.

The importance of phosphorous to life cannot be overestimated as it is a key element used in fertilizer. But it is a finite resource - demand is growing but supply is limited, meaning recovering it from waste streams is becoming increasingly important.

“Extracting and recovering phosphorus from biosolids and animal manure solids has risen to a level of paramount importance among both wastewater treatment plant operators as well as farmers,” said Jay R. Snyder, environmental resource manager with Ephrata Borough in Pennsylvania.

Larry Sandeen, Renewable Nutrients’ chief engineer facilitated the installation and operation of the Quick Wash phosphorus extraction and recovery mobile pilot plant which has been set up by Renewable Nutrients for testing at the Ephrata, Pennsylvania treatment facility Plant 1.

The purpose of the pilot is to prove the efficacy and efficiency of the Quick Wash process in extracting and recovering phosphorus from solid waste streams at both municipal waste water treatment facilities and farming operations with high densities of livestock.

A view of the ceramic membrane housing at separation stage 1.

Practical solution

“I’m extremely pleased with this debut of the Quick Wash technology. It represents the first industrial-scale deployment of a practical solution for extracting and recovering nearly 100% of the phosphorus present in biosolids”, said Renewable Nutrients CEO Jeff Dawson.

“Our development partners, Synergistic Environmental Solutions, Keystone Engineering and Kershner Environmental Technologies, did a fantastic job of constructing a very presentable mobile unit as well as a high-tech operational platform, complete with state-of-the art automation software for running and monitoring the Quick Wash system.”

Having completed its trial at the Ephrata plant, the mobile Quick Wash unit, which can be easily moved and transported between waste treatment facilities, is now on a three-month tour, where it will be operational at various waste treatment plants in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Maryland, United States.

The Quick Wash system combines chemical treatment and membrane separation to produce a granular form of calcium phosphate and low or even no-phosphorus biosolids. The calcium phosphate can be sold on the open market and the resultant solid material can be safely land applied or landfilled without fear of phosphorus soil saturation or run-off.

The Quick Wash technology could be a significant benefit to municipal wastewater treatment plants that need to remove phosphorus from their solids or final effluent. In addition to the benefits of phosphorus recovery, this process could replace costly side stream treatment of phosphorus-rich recycle flows from sludge dewatering processes.

Renewable Nutrients’ Quick Wash mobile pilot.

Laboratory analysis

The mobile pilot has been fitted with a complete programmable logic controller and PC-based instrumentation and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to continuously monitor and control the Quick Wash process. The data from the SCADA system is combined with both on-site and independent laboratory analysis to evaluate the performance of each pilot plant run.

The in-field pilot testing is a critical first phase in the development and implementation of a full scale system for municipal treatment facilities, while providing a platform to fully demonstrate both the process and economic benefits of phosphorus recovery.

“The wastewater treatment sector realizes that biosolids has levels of phosphorus higher than needed for good crop growth,” said Bill Toffey, executive director of the Mid Atlantic Biosolids Association.

“The innovative technology that Renewable Nutrients is piloting may enable our treatment plants to produce a fertilizer for our farmer customers that is tailored to their crops and soils. I am eager to see the results of its performance in Ephrata and other test sites.”

“I am confident we have created a practical system and solution for solving a phosphorus dilemma that waste treatment plants throughout the country and even the world have faced for many years,” added Phil Schwartz, president of the Keystone Engineering Group.

“I am pleased the pilot plant is operating as successfully as we had anticipated in our original design plans.”