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Combining electro-bioremediation of nitrate in saline groundwater with concomitant chlorine production
Water Research  (IF11.236),  Pub Date : 2021-10-05, DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117736
Giulia Puggioni, Stefano Milia, Emma Dessì, Valentina Unali, Narcís Pous, M. Dolors Balaguer, Sebastià Puig, Alessandra Carucci

Groundwater pollution and salinization have increased steadily over the years. As the balance between water demand and availability has reached a critical level in many world regions, a sustainable approach for the management (including recovery) of saline water resources has become essential. A 3-compartment cell configuration was tested for a new application based on the simultaneous denitrification and desalination of nitrate-contaminated saline groundwater and the recovery of value-added chemicals. The cells were initially operated in potentiostatic mode to promote autotrophic denitrification at the bio-cathode, and then switched to galvanostatic mode to improve the desalination of groundwater in the central compartment. The average nitrate removal rate achieved was 39±1 mgNO3-N L−1 d−1, and no intermediates (i.e., nitrite and nitrous oxide) were observed in the effluent. Groundwater salinity was considerably reduced (average chloride removal was 63±5%). Within a circular economy approach, part of the removed chloride was recovered in the anodic compartment and converted into chlorine, which reached a concentration of 26.8±3.4 mgCl2 L−1. The accumulated chlorine represents a value-added product, which could also be dosed for disinfection in water treatment plants. With this cell configuration, WHO and European legislation threshold limits for nitrate (11.3 mgNO3-N L−1) and salinity (2.5 mS cm−1) in drinking water were met, with low specific power consumptions (0.13±0.01 kWh g−1NO3-Nremoved). These results are promising and pave the ground for successfully developing a sustainable technology to tackle an urgent environmental issue.