A combination of membrane bioreactor (MBR) and nanofiltration (NF) was tested at pilot-scale treating textile wastewater from the wastewater treatment station of a textile mill in Wuqing District of Tianjin (China). The MBR-NF process showed a much better treatment efficiency on the removal of the chemical oxygen demand, total organic carbon, color and turbidity in comparison with the conventional processes. The water recovery rate was enhanced to over 90% through the recycling of NF concentrate to the MBR, while the MBR-NF showed a stable permeate water quality that met with standards and could be directly discharged or further reused. The recycled NF concentrate caused an accumulation of refractory compounds in the MBR, which significantly influenced the treatment efficiency of the MBR. However, the sludge characteristics showed that the activated sludge activity was not obviously inhibited. The results of fluorescence spectra and molecular weight distribution indicated that those recalcitrant pollutants were mostly protein-like substances and a small amount of humic acid-like substances (650–6,000 Da), which contributed to membrane fouling of NF. Although the penetrated protein-like substances caused the residual color in NF permeate, the MBR-NF process was suitable for the advanced treatment and reclamation of textile wastewater under high water yield.

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