New Technological Advancement Uses an Electric Field To Achieve Efficient and Low-Cost Ammonia Removal from Wastewater

November 29, 2021
Ammonia is one of many pollutants present in wastewater and can be toxic for marine and terrestrial life. Therefore, in a process called air stripping, it is removed from wastewater and later used as a fertilizer or fuel. Air stripping converts ammonia into a gas, that can then escape the wastewater from its surface. But this process is not efficient: it is energy-intensive, and requires specific temperatures, air supply, and a lot of chemicals, making it expensive.
Addressing these drawbacks, in a study published in Water Research (made available online on August 5, 2021 and published in Volume 203 of the journal on September 15, 2021)researchers from South Korea have demonstrated that the simple application of an electric field during air stripping can substantially improve the efficiency of ammonia removal, even under sub-optimal conditions. “So far, the removal of ammonia from wastewater was thought to be dependent on only pH, temperature, and air supply. However, we have shown that an electrical field can also act as a modulator of this process,” says Prof. Young-Chae Song, the lead investigator on this study.
Prof. Song and his team used a combination of live experiments with an ammonia stripping tank and deep learning to understand how electric fields of different strengths influence the efficiency of ammonia removal from wastewater. They found that electric fields with an alternating current of 50 MHz and a power of 15 V/cm significantly improves the ammonia removal efficiency, increasing it from 51% to 94%, even under sub-optimal conditions. Therefore, improved ammonia yields could be achieved while considerably reducing the consumption of energy and chemicals.
Prof. Song comments, “Our simulations showed that electric field application provides a similar efficiency of ammonia removal to conventional methods at a much lower temperature, air supply, and pH. Moreover, the energy needed to power the electric field is a minute fraction of the energy required to achieve these ‘optimal’ conditions.”
Indeed, this new electric field-coupled platform could provide a more economical way of stripping ammonia from wastewater and reducing the carbon footprint associated with this process.
Natural Gas Processing Facilities Required To Submit TRI Reports
Natural gas liquid extraction (NPG) facilities were added to the scope of the industrial sectors covered by the reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), commonly known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA). According to EPA, adding these facilities will meaningfully increase the information available to the public on releases and other waste management of listed chemicals from the NGP sector and further the purposes of EPCRA.
The new final rule goes into effect on December 27, 2021 and will apply for the reporting year beginning January 1, 2022 (reports due July 1, 2023).
New Online Portal Simplifies Application Process for OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs
A new online portal for submitting applications to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Programs is now available. The new portal modernizes the application process for companies that qualify for VPP and makes it easier for candidates to start, continue and get assistance with submitting their applications.
“Companies in the Voluntary Protection Programs go above and beyond basic OSHA requirements and strive to create a culture of safety,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “This important program comprises sites that serve as models of excellence and influence safety and health practices in all industries.”
The portal allows OSHA to review applications in real time, and help companies correct errors or omissions quickly. Applicants can use the portal to upload electronic versions of supporting documentation, and they can stop and complete their application at a later time without having to restart. Alternatively, after completing an applicant profile, they may download an application form to complete offline, and submit their application materials by mail.
OSHA developed the VPP Portal as part of the agency’s efforts to continue representing safety and health excellence, leverage resources, accommodate effective administration of VPP and support smart program growth. The agency developed the portal with input from external stakeholders and OSHA staff. Qualified companies with mature safety and health management systems can apply to VPP using the new system.
OSHA adopted VPP on July 2, 1982, to recognize cooperative action among government, industry, and labor as a means of addressing worker safety and health issues and expanding worker protection.
Vehicles Are An Under-Recognized Source Of Urban Ammonia Pollution
By disrupting normal societal activities, such as driving, COVID-19 lockdowns afforded a unique opportunity to study their impacts on the environment. Researchers now report in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology Letters that satellite data from before and during the spring 2020 lockdown in Los Angeles shows that vehicles, rather than agriculture, are the main source of urban airborne ammonia (NH3), which forms small particles that contribute to air pollution and harm human health.
When emitted into the atmosphere, NH3 is converted into tiny particles of inorganic compounds, including ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate. On a national or global scale, most NH3 pollution comes from agricultural sources, such as livestock manure. But vehicles also contribute to the problem because their catalytic converters or selective catalytic reduction systems — which are designed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants including NO2 — have the undesirable side-effect of producing ammonia emissions. In cities, it’s been hard to tell whether agriculture or traffic emits more NH3, and the default assumption has been that agriculture is the greater culprit, despite some labor-intensive measurement studies that suggested otherwise in a few cities. Daven K. Henze and colleagues wanted to see if satellite data could be used to answer this question for the first time from space, since such an approach, in principle, could be applied more broadly to urban areas throughout the world.
The researchers focused on western Los Angeles, where previous on-the-ground measurements found that vehicle emissions of NH3 were being underestimated. The team analyzed satellite readings of NH3, as well as NO2. Because the main source of NO2 in the region is on-road transportation, the compound can serve as a proxy for changes in traffic volume and an indicator of vehicular as opposed to agricultural ammonia emissions. The team correlated concentrations of the two pollutants, and also took meteorological effects into account, to calculate the amount of ammonia emissions that can be traced to vehicles. They found that vehicles accounted for 60% to 84% of total NH3 emissions at this urban location, consistent with estimates provided by modeling, but substantially higher than the 13% to 22% share estimated by government agencies. The researchers say their findings suggest the health impact of vehicle-related ammonia may rival that of NOx, yet it has been largely under-recognized and uncontrolled.
Living Walls Can Reduce Heat Lost from Buildings By Over 30%
Retrofitting an existing masonry cavity walled building with a green or living wall can reduce the amount of heat lost through its structure by more than 30%, according to new research.
The study, conducted at the University of Plymouth, centered around the Sustainability Hub – a pre-1970s building on the university campus – and compared how effectively two sections of its walls retained heat.
Despite being on the same west-facing elevation, one of those sections had been retrofitted with an exterior living wall façade, comprised of a flexible felt fabric sheet system with pockets allowing for soil and planting.
After five weeks of measurements, researchers found the amount of heat lost through the wall retrofitted with the living façade was 31.4% lower than that of the original structure.
They also discovered daytime temperatures within the newly-covered section remained more stable than the area with exposed masonry, meaning less energy was required to heat it.
The study is one of the first to ascertain the thermal influence of living wall systems on existing buildings in temperate scenarios and was conducted by academics associated with the University’s Sustainable Earth Institute.
Writing in the journal Building and Environment, they say while the concept is relatively new, it has already been shown to bring a host of benefits such as added biodiversity.
However, with buildings directly accounting for 17% of UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions – and space heating accounting for over 60% of all energy used in buildings – these new findings could be a game-changer in helping the UK achieve its net-zero commitments.
Dr Matthew Fox, a researcher in sustainable architecture and the study’s lead author, said: “Within England, approximately 57% all buildings were built before 1964. While regulations have changed more recently to improve the thermal performance of new constructions, it is our existing buildings that require the most energy to heat and are a significant contributor to carbon emissions. It is therefore essential that we begin to improve the thermal performance of these existing buildings, if the UK is to reach its target of net zero carbon emission by 2050, and help to reduce the likelihood of fuel poverty from rising energy prices.”
The University is renowned globally for its research into sustainable building technologies, and this study’s findings are already being taken forward as part of the University’s Sustainability Hub: Low Carbon Devon project.
Supported by an investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the three-year £2.6 million program is exploring low carbon solutions through research and support for local enterprises.
Specifically, this aspect of the project is looking to optimize the performance and sustainability of external living walls in sustainable building design through research on the thermal properties, and carbon sequestration, offered by different plant and soil types.
Dr Thomas Murphy, one of the study’s authors and an Industrial Research Fellow on the Low Carbon Devon project, added: “With an expanding urban population, ‘green infrastructure’ is a potential nature-based solution which provides an opportunity to tackle climate change, air pollution and biodiversity loss, whilst facilitating low carbon economic growth. Living walls can offer improved air quality, noise reduction and elevated health and well-being. Our research suggests living walls can also provide significant energy savings to help reduce the carbon footprint of existing buildings. Further optimizing these living wall systems, however, is now needed to help maximize the environmental benefits and reduce some of the sustainability costs.” 
OSHA Proposes $20K in Penalties for Mathis Grading Inc., after Worker's Death
If federal workplace safety requirements had been followed, a North Georgia site grading and pipeline contractor could have prevented the death of a 24-year-old worker who was killed in May after a fork attachment used on a front-end loader dislodged and struck the worker.
An OSHA investigation determined that when the incident occurred at the Dawsonville work site, the worker held a stake as heavy equipment drove the stake into the ground to install a stanchion for GPS equipment. The worker was transported to a local hospital, and died of his injuries.
OSHA cited Mathis Grading Inc. in Cumming for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and not notifying OSHA of a work-related fatality within the 8-hour required reporting period. The company faces $20,480 in proposed penalties.
“Like all employers, Mathis Grading must provide a workplace free of recognizable hazards by identifying and mitigating safety hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Joshua Turner in Atlanta-East. “Had established safety instructions outlined in the equipment safety manual been followed, this tragic death could have been prevented.”
Founded in 1985, Mathis Grading Inc. is a family owned and operated site grading and pipeline installation contractor for residential, commercial and industrial land development.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
California Takes On the Recycling Slump with Upgrades that Fight Trash Pollution
Every year, California discards enough plastic to fill 80,000 Olympic-sized pools. In response to a lagging statewide recycling rate and rising public concern about this surge of single-use trash polluting our neighborhoods and ocean, California is modernizing its recycling system to expand reuse and in-state remanufacturing. 
California recycling innovations include seven recently passed laws, new ways to redeem bottles and cans, the launch of food and yard waste recycling and $270 million in new investments to move away from our disposable economy by incentivizing businesses that design products to be used again instead of thrown away. 
“California can ensure that our waste is recycled by remanufacturing it right here in our state,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “The solution to trash pollution in our oceans and communities is innovating - building a circular economy together.”
In addition to cutting waste and trash pollution, remaking more products locally will also cut the high climate footprint and supply chain challenges related to shipping recycled materials and manufactured items overseas.
As the nation marks America Recycles Day 2021, California marks historic actions to reverse the state’s recycling slump through:
  • $270 million in upgrades for a circular use, recycling economy
  • California’s $270 million investment in modernized recycling systems includes:
  • $165 million for food and yard waste recycling programs and facilities.
  • $75 million to attract green industry with CalRecycle’s new Office of Innovation.
  • $5 million for surplus food recoverybecause 1 in 5 Californians does not have enough to eat while about 1.8 billion still-fresh meals get thrown away.
  • $5 million to increase air-cleansing, green spaces and recycle food waste in disadvantaged communities with Community Composting programs.
  • $20 million to turn food waste into clean energy in waste-water treatment plants.
7 new laws to cut single-use trash pollution
Last month, Governor Newsom signed laws to move California to a more circular economy through more informed consumer choice and greater industry accountability:
  • Truth in advertising laws:
  • Increasing recycling and reducing pollution laws:
  • Updating bottle and can recycling
    • Californians recycled over 426 billion bottles and cans since the Bottle Bill passed in 1986. In the face of market changes for recyclables and local challenges, communities can now customize their takeback methods to meet local needs with Beverage Container Recycling Pilot Projects. Existing pilot projects include:
    • Culver City: Mobile truck parks in different areas on alternate days paying cash.
    • Irvine: At-home pickup mails payments after processing CRV.
    • San Francisco: Includes bag drop-off sites with later payment, mobile and permanent recycling centers.
    • San Mateo County: 3 fixed CRV takeback sites with limited hours in 3 cities.
    • Sonoma County: CRV bag drop-off sites with later payment in 6 cities. The biggest change to recycling since it started in the 1980s
  • Food, yard and other organic waste make up 56% of everything California throws away. Organics in landfills are a top source of climate super pollutants in the state. To reduce landfill methane emissions, starting Jan. 1, 2022, cities and counties must:
  • Food and yard waste recycling will create about 17,600 jobs and build a multi-billion renewable industry.
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