Trickling filters were used to treat wash water from a wood gasifier. This wash water contained toxic substances such as ammonium, cyanide, phenols, and PAH. The goal was to develop a system that degraded toxic substances, and achieved full nitrification of ammonia. A 1 kW model wood gasifier plant delivered wash water for the experiments, which was standardised to a conductivity of 3 mS/cm by dilution. Toxicity was assessed by bacterial luminescence detection, germination test with cress (Lepidium sativum), and pot plants cultivated in a hydroponic setup irrigated continuously with the wastewater. Treatment experiments were done in both planted and unplanted trickling filters. Plant yield was similar to conventional hydroponic production systems. The trickling filters achieved complete detoxification of phenol, PAH and cyanide as well as full nitrification. The specific elimination rates were 100 g m−3 Leca d−1 for phenols and 90 g m−3 Leca d−1 for ammonium in planted systems. In unplanted trickling filters circulated for 63 h, phenol concentration decreased from 83.5 mg/L to 2.5 mg/L and cyanide concentration from 0.32 mg/L to 0.02 mg/L. PAH concentrations were reduced from 3,050 μg/L to 0.89 μg/L within 68 days. The assays demonstrated the feasibility of using the technique to construct a treatment system in a partially closed circulation for gasifier wash water. The principal advantage is to convert toxic effluents from biomass gasifiers into a non-toxic, nitrogen-rich fertiliser water, enabling subsequent use in plant production and thus income generation. However, the questions of long-term performance and possible accumulation of phenols and heavy metals in the produce still have to be studied.

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