A South African developed tubular cellulose acetate reverse osmosis (RO) system from Membratek (Pty) Ltd was evaluated for the treatment of nickel rinse water and mixed electroplating effluent. Spiral wrap polyamide (DuPont) and thin film composite (FilmTec) membranes were evaluated for cadmium and chromium rinse water treatment, respectively. Preliminary laboratory results have shown that nickel rinse water should be treated economically with tubular RO. Approximately 92% of the rinse water could be recovered for reuse. The RO brine is of suitable quality for reuse in the electroplating process. Plant payback for a 5 m3/h nickel/water recovery RO plant was determined to.be 1.3 years (approximately 2 000 mg/ℓ Ni in feed). No severe membrane fouling was encountered during the investigation. However, membrane fouling can affect the process adversely and this will be studied further.

Approximately 90% water, of suitable quality for reuse as rinse water in the plating process, could be recovered from mixed electroplating effluent. Effluent volume for subsequent treatment with lime was significantly reduced.

It may also be possible to treat cadmium and chromium rinse waters with RO. Approximately 92% and 91% water, of suitable quality for reuse as rinse water, could be recovered with spiral wrap polyamide and thin film composite membranes, respectively. Membrane fouling was experienced during cadmium rinse water treatment. However, water flux could be restored by chemical cleaning. Very little fouling was experienced during chromium rinse water treatment. The fouling potential of the rinse waters for the membranes and subsequent cleaning procedures will be studied further. Preliminary results have shown that payback for 5 m3/h RO cadmium/water and RO chromium/water recovery plants should be 3 and 7 years, respectively.

Reverse osmosis has been shown to be a very effective technology for water and chemical recovery and for effluent volume reduction. The electroplating industry causes serious pollution and wastes large volumes of water. Consequently, RO is a technology that may be applied to good effect in the electroplating industry to control pollution and to save scarce water.

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