Forward osmosis for the treatment of reverse osmosis concentrate from water reclamation: process performance and fouling control

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While high quality water reuse based on dual membrane filtration (membrane filtration or ultrafiltration, followed by reverse osmosis) is expected to be progressively applied, treatment and sustainable management of the produced reverse osmosis concentrate (ROC) are still important issues. Forward osmosis (FO) is a promising technology for maximising water recovery and further dewatering ROC so that zero liquid discharge is produced. Elevated concentrations of organic and inorganic compounds may act as potential foulants of the concentrate desalting system, in that they consist of, for example, FO and a subsequent crystallizer. The present study investigated conditions under which the FO system can serve as concentration phase with the focus on its fouling propensity using model foulants and real ROC. Bulk organics from ROC consisted mainly of humic acids (HA) and building blocks since wastewater-derived biopolymers were retained by membrane filtration or ultrafiltration. Organic fouling of the FO system by ROC-derived bulk organics was low. HA was only adsorbed moderately at about 7% of the initial concentration, causing a minor flux decline of about 2–4%. However, scaling was a major impediment to this process if not properly controlled, for instance by pH adjustment or softening.

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