Fossil organic carbon in wastewater and its fate in treatment plants

Law, Yingyu, Jacobsen, Geraldine E., Smith, Andrew M., Yuan, Zhiguo and Lant, Paul (2013) Fossil organic carbon in wastewater and its fate in treatment plants. Water Research, 47 14: 5270-5281. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2013.06.002

Author Law, Yingyu
Jacobsen, Geraldine E.
Smith, Andrew M.
Yuan, Zhiguo
Lant, Paul
Title Fossil organic carbon in wastewater and its fate in treatment plants
Journal name Water Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0043-1354
Publication date 2013-09-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.watres.2013.06.002
Volume 47
Issue 14
Start page 5270
End page 5281
Total pages 12
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher I W A Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
This study reports the presence of fossil organic carbon in wastewater and its fate in wastewater treatment plants. The findings pinpoint the inaccuracy of current greenhouse gas accounting guidelines which defines all organic carbon in wastewater to be of biogenic origin. Stable and radiocarbon isotopes (13C and 14C) were measured throughout the process train in four municipal wastewater treatment plants equipped with secondary activated sludge treatment. Isotopic mass balance analyses indicate that 4–14% of influent total organic carbon (TOC) is of fossil origin with concentrations between 6 and 35 mg/L; 88–98% of this is removed from the wastewater. The TOC mass balance analysis suggests that 39–65% of the fossil organic carbon from the influent is incorporated into the activated sludge through adsorption or from cell assimilation while 29–50% is likely transformed to carbon dioxide (CO2) during secondary treatment. The fossil organic carbon fraction in the sludge undergoes further biodegradation during anaerobic digestion with a 12% decrease in mass. 1.4–6.3% of the influent TOC consists of both biogenic and fossil carbon is estimated to be emitted as fossil CO2 from activated sludge treatment alone. The results suggest that current greenhouse gas accounting guidelines, which assume that all CO2 emission from wastewater is biogenic may lead to underestimation of emissions.
Keyword Biogenic carbon dioxide
Greenhouse gas accounting
Fossil carbon dioxide
Fugitive emissions
Wastewater treatment plant
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Chemical Engineering Publications
Official 2014 Collection
Advanced Water Management Centre Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 29 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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