The aim of the study was to determine if solid, slightly soluble compounds can be used as nutrient source in activated sludge treatment plants instead of liquid phosphoric acid. Four different solid materials were tested in lab-scale solubility tests to find compounds which are least soluble. Two materials were chosen for further studies: apatite and raw phosphate. The use of apatite and raw phosphate as nutrient source was studied in lab-scale activated sludge reactors along with a control reactor where phosphorus was added in liquid form. The phosphorus dosage, measured as elementary phosphorus, was the same for all three reactors. The reactors were fed with pre-clarified chemi-thermomechanical pulp mill (CTMP) wastewater.
There were no significant differences in the reductions of organic matter between the three reactors. The mean effluent concentration of total phosphorus was 3 mg P/l in the control reactor and less than 1 mg P/1 in the other two reactors. The soluble phosphorus concentration was more than 2 mg P/l in the control reactor and less than 0.5 mg P/l in the other two. Apatite was an even better nutrient source than raw phosphate. Further lab-scale tests were conducted using two different grain sizes of apatite. No significant differences were found between the studied grain sizes (<0.074 mm and 0.074 mm-0.125 mm).
Apatite was then used in full-scale at a CTMP-mill two different times. The experiments showed that the mean concentrations of phosphorus can be reduced radically by using apatite as a nutrient source instead of liquid phosphorus. Solid phosphorus compounds are a viable alternative to reduce the phosphorus load from forest industry wastewater treatment plants.