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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Laboratory Demonstration and Preliminary Techno-Economic Analysis of an Onsite Wastewater Treatment System.


Providing safe and reliable sanitation services to the billions of people currently lacking them will require a multiplicity of approaches. Improving onsite wastewater treatment to standards enabling water reuse would reduce the need to transport waste and fresh water over long distances. Here, we describe a compact, automated system designed to treat the liquid fraction of blackwater for onsite water reuse that combines cross-flow ultrafiltration, activated carbon, and electrochemical oxidation. In laboratory testing, the system consistently produces effluent with 6 ≤ pH ≤ 9, total suspended solids (TSS) < 30 mg L-1, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) < 150 mg L-1. These effluent parameters were achieved across a wide range of values for influent TSS (61-820 mg L-1) and COD (384-1505 mg L-1), demonstrating a robust system for treating wastewater of varying strengths. A preliminary techno-economic analysis (TEA) was conducted to elucidate primary cost drivers and prioritize research and development pathways toward commercial feasibility. The ultrafiltration system is the primary cost driver, contributing to >50% of both the energy and maintenance costs. Several scenario parameters showed an outsized impact on costs relative to technology parameters. Specific technological improvements for future prototype development are discussed.

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