Removal of inorganic anions from drinking water supplies by membrane bio/processes
This paper is designed to provide an overview of the main membrane-assisted processes that can be used for the removal of toxic inorganic anions from drinking water supplies. The emphasis has been placed on integrated process solutions, including the emerging issue of membrane bioreactors. An attempt is made to compare critically recently reported results, reveal the best existing membrane technologies and identify the most promising integrated membrane bio/processes currently being under investigation. Selected examples are discussed in each case with respect to their advantages and limitations compared to conventional methods for removal of anionic pollutants. The use of membranes is particularly attractive for separating ions between two liquid phases (purified and concentrated water streams) because many of the difficulties associated with precipitation, coagulation or adsorption and phase separation can be avoided. Therefore, membrane technologies are already successfully used on large-scale for removal of inorganic anions such as nitrate, fluoride, arsenic species, etc. The concentrated brine discharge and/or treatment, however, can be problematic in many cases. Membrane bioreactors allow for complete depollution but water quality, insufficiently stable process operation, and economical reasons still limit their wider application in drinking water treatment. The development of more efficient membranes, the design of cost-effective operating conditions, especially long-term operations without or with minimal membrane inorganic and/or biological fouling, and reduction of the specific energy consumption requirements are the major challenges.