Experimental and statistical evaluation of the performance of Chitosan as a coagulant in the treatment of sugar refinery effluents
Pambi, Ritha-Lorette Luti
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The implementation of new water regulations from the local government has been a motivation for most industries to treat the effluent before disposal or reuse within the plant, in order to save costs and avoid sanctions. Tongaat-Huletts sugar refinery has therefore invested in this collaborative research with the Durban University of Technology in order to investigate new technologies for wastewater treatment and water recovery using an organic coagulant called chitosan. Chitosan is a natural non-toxic polymer extracted from the exoskeleton of crustaceans. Chitosan has gained extensive attention as a coagulant in the treatment of wastewaters from various industries. However, no attention has been given to the coagulation of effluents from the sugar industry using this polymer. In this work, chitosan coagulant (CCo) was prepared by dissolution of known amounts of chitosan powder in aqueous acid at 50℃. The solution was diluted to desired concentrations using distilled water at room temperature. The removal of impurities using chitosan was investigated for two effluent streams from the sugar refinery, namely the final effluent (FE) and the resin effluent (RE) by applying the one-factor-at-a-time (OFAT) method. The optimum chitosan loading was found to be 138 mg/l for the RE and 7.41 mg/l for the FE, beyond which the efficiency of the coagulant decreased. The coagulation of FE removed 97% of the total suspended solids (TSS), 61% colour and 35% chemical oxygen demand (COD). The treatment of RE resulted in the removal of 68% TSS, 30% colour and 15% COD due to its high content of impurities. Therefore, RE was not considered for statistical studies. The Box-Behnken (BBD) design, which is a statistical response surface methodology (RSM) model was used to study the simultaneous effect of pH, coagulant loading and settling time on the removal of the COD, TSS and colour, with the help of an overlay plot for the FE. The optimum values from the overlay plot were 92% for TSS, 83% for colour and 29% for COD. The model equations generated by the BBD for individual responses involved all the manipulated variables contrary to the OFAT which only considered one manipulated parameter per response. Moreover, the BBD allowed the simultaneous analysis of all the parameters and the identification of interactions which occur when the effect of one factor is dependent on the level of another. The most important interaction for the removal of TSS was the combination of the variation in pH and coagulant dosage. The COD removal was mostly affected by the interaction between the coagulant loading and the settling time. The colour removal increased with the simultaneous increase of the pH and the settling time. A comparative study between the wastewaters from the sugar industry, the brewery industry and milk processing industry revealed that the performance of the chitosan was also affected by the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the wastewater. A model was developed relating the TSS, COD and TDS from all these wastewaters, and was used to predict the TSS removal for the effluent from the olive oil mills and the wastewater from the winery. Chitosan can be considered as a good alternative to inorganic and synthetic coagulants for the pre-treatment of the FE due to its ability to efficiently remove the levels of TSS and colour. Furthermore, the production of chitosan from crustacean shells is a good method of reducing pollution from the fishery industry. Chitosan can be produced locally at low cost due to both the abundance of crustacean shells in the coastal regions of South Africa and the simplicity of its preparation process. It is recommended that a mathematical model be developed to accurately predict the influence of chitosan on all types of effluent. Such a model will provide an indication of the performance of the chitosan and guide experimenters. It is further recommended that the effect of the use of organic coagulants on the destabilization of dissolved solids in wastewater be given greater attention.