This study investigated the potential of laboratory- scale columns of immobilized micro-algae to disinfect effluents using thermo-tolerant coliforms (TTC) as a model system. Cells of a Chlorella species isolated from a waste stabilization pond complex in Northeast Brazil were immobilized in calcium alginate, packed into glass columns and incubated in contact with TTC suspensions for up to 24 hours. Five to six log removals of TTC were achieved in 6 hours and 11 log removals in 12 hours contact time. The results were similar under artificial light and shaded sunlight. However little or no TTC removal occurred in the light in columns of alginate beads without immobilized algae present or when the immobilized algae were incubated in the dark suggesting that the presence of both algae and light were necessary for TTC decay. There was a positive correlation between Kb values for TTC and increasing pH in the effluent from the immobilized algal columns within the range pH 7.2 and 8.9. The potential of immobilized algal technology for wastewater disinfection may warrant further investigation.
Keywords: alginate, immobilized Chlorella, thermo-tolerant coliform removal, waste stabilization ponds