Conventional treatment of tannery wastewaters includes the physico-chemical treatment in order to precipitate metals (mostly Cr(III). The landfilling disposal of mixed physico-chemical and biological tannery sludges is an economical and environmental problem, due to the saturation of possible sites.

A new process, namely, IERECHROM® (Ion Exchange REcovery of CHROMium), has been developed for removal, recovery and reuse of Cr(III) ionic complex from segregated tannery wastewaters. The process is based on the use of a weak electrolyte macroporous carboxylate resin, retaining the metal of reference together with other trace metals, including aluminum and iron.

A 10 m3/d fully automated pilot plant was assembled and a demonstration campaign was carried out at a medium size Italian tannery by using the IERECHROM process. The adoption of the IERECHROM process simplified the tannery wastewater treatment lay-out as the physico-chemical treatment was not necessary. A considerable decrease in the use of chemical compounds, a sludge production reduced by 80% with respect to the traditional treatment, and lower costs for sludge treatment and disposal were demonstrated.

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