Microcystis aeruginosa was cultured in biologically treated municipal effluent to simulate blue-green algal bloom conditions in a treatment lagoon. The effect of algae in the early, mid and late phases of growth on membrane fouling, chemical coagulation (alum or aluminium chlorohydrate (ACH)) and hydraulic cleaning on the microfiltration of this effluent was investigated. The effect of M. aeruginosa in the early phase was negligible and gave a similar flux profile and permeate volume to that of effluent alone. The increase in M. aeruginosa concentration for the mid and late phases caused a significant reduction in permeate volume compared with the early phase. Full flux recovery was achieved with an alum dose of 1 mg Al3+ L−1 (early phase) and 10 mg Al3+ L−1 (mid phase), demonstrating that membrane fouling was hydraulically reversible. For the late phase, the highest flux recovery was 89%, which was achieved with an alum dose of 5 mg Al3+ L−1. Higher alum dosages resulted in a reduction in flux recovery. The use of 1.5 µm pre-filtration after alum treatment showed little improvement in water quality but led to a drastic reduction in flux recovery, which was attributed to diminishing the protective layer on the membrane surface, thus enabling internal fouling. The performance of ACH was comparable to alum at low dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and cell concentration, but was not as effective as alum at high DOC and cell concentration due to the formation of more compact ACH flocs, which resulted in a higher cake layer specific resistance, leading to the deterioration of performance.
Keywords: biologically treated effluent, coagulation, Cyanobacteria, Microcystis aeruginosa, microfiltration, pre-treatment