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Fate, behaviour, and implications of ZnO nanoparticles in a simulated wastewater treatment plant

EFC Chaúque
JN Zvimba
JC Ngila
N Musee


Increased use of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) has resulted in their entry into municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) as their final sinks. However, the adverse impact of ENPs on the bacterial activity in the activated sludge WWTPs is not yet well understood, despite their increased release into such systems. In this study, the impacts on WWTPS associated with the disposal of zinc oxide (ZnO) ENPs was investigated using a simulated WWTP developed as per the prescribed Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 303A) specifications. Analyses were done to determine zinc concentrations at various stages of the setup, mainly in the raw wastewater and treated effluent, using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). The results obtained indicated low levels of zinc residue (about 50–200 μg/L) in the treated effluent compared to relatively high concentrations of Zn in the sludge (about 3 000 mg/kg). Results reported herein imply precipitation of ZnO ENPs during wastewater treatment processes and hence its high levels in the sludge. The presence of solid Zn in the sludge was determined using X-ray diffraction spectroscopy (XRD). Overall, no significant impact of ZnO ENPs on the performance of the simulated WWTP was observed, in terms of the removal levels of chemical oxygen demand (COD) during the treatment process

Keywords: wastewater, activated sludge, nanoparticles, zinc oxide, OECD 303A

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738