The City of Port Elizabeth designed its main sewage treatment works with water reclamation in mind and, as the reverse osmosis process, in earlier pilot plant investigations, had shown promise in its ability to produce potable water from a sewage works tertiary effluent, a full scale tubular reverse osmosis (RO) plant was installed and operated for about 12 000 hours.
The investigation showed that, although renovated water of high quality can consistently be produced under normal sewage treatment plant operating conditions, using existing plant operating personnel, frequent mechanical and instrument failures indicated the need for more reliable equipment. Feed flow to the plant averaged 25 475 1/hr with a product recovery rate of 67.5%. A 13% reduction in peak standard flux occurred, indicating that membrane fouling could be controlled within acceptable limits even though the feed received no pre-treatment other than rapid sand filtration and chlorination. No abnormal degradation of the membrane was indicated.
The results obtained indicated that chemically the product was of good potable quality with the possible exception of the levels of ammoniacal nitrogen, phenols and organic pollution indicators. Bacteriological quality of the product was not satisfactory but this could easily be rectified by the provision of adequate post disinfection. Daphnia pulex toxicity tests indicated that the RO product was on occasion undesirable for human consumption.
The total cost of the RO product was R l.86/kl.
Although the tubular RO process has great potential for producing potable water from a tertiary sewage effluent without pre-treatment, a further stage of post-treatment is probably necessary to remove micro-pollutants.