Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 628–638 | Cite as

Effective removal of ammonia nitrogen from waste seawater using crystal seed enhanced struvite precipitation technology with response surface methodology for process optimization

  • Weilong Song
  • Zhipeng LiEmail author
  • Feng Liu
  • Yi Ding
  • Peishi QiEmail author
  • Hong You
  • Chao Jin
Research Article


Traditional biological treatment was not effective for removing nitrogen from saline wastewater due to the inhibition of high salinity on biomass activity. In this context, a method of removing ammonia nitrogen from waste seawater was proposed by struvite precipitation which was enhanced by seeding technique. The abundant magnesium contained in waste seawater was used as the key component of struvite crystallization without additional magnesium. The effects of pH and P:N molar ratio on ammonia nitrogen removal efficiency were studied. The results showed that optimum pH value was in range of 8.5–10 and the P:N molar ratio should be controlled within 2:1–3:1. XRD and SEM-EDS analyses of the precipitates proved that Ca2+ and excess Mg2+ contained in waste seawater inhibited the struvite crystallization by competing PO4 3− to form by-products. Then, seeding technique for enhancing the struvite crystallization was investigated, and the results indicated that using preformed struvite as crystal seed significantly improved the ammonia nitrogen removal efficiency, especially when initial ammonia nitrogen concentration was relatively low. Moreover, response surface optimization experiment following a Box-Behnken design was conducted. A response surface model was established, based on which optimum process conditions were determined and interactions between various factors were clarified. At last, economic evaluation demonstrated this proposed method was economic feasible.


Struvite precipitation Waste seawater Ammonia nitrogen removal Crystal seed Response surface optimization 


Funding information

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Fund of China (No. 51408158), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No.HIT.NSRIF.2016098), and the scientific research foundation of Harbin Institute of Technology at Weihai (HIT(WH)201403).


  1. APHA (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, APHA, AWWA and WPCF, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  2. Barbosa SG, Peixoto L, Meulman B, Alves MM, Pereira MA (2016) A design of experiments to assess phosphorous removal and crystal properties in struvite precipitation of source separated urine using different Mg sources. Chem Eng J 298:146–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bashir MJK, Aziz HA, Yusoff MS, Adlan MN (2010) Application of response surface methodology (RSM) for optimization of ammoniacal nitrogen removal from semi-aerobic landfill leachate using ion exchange resin. Desalination 254:154–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bi W, Li Y, Hu Y (2014) Recovery of phosphorus and nitrogen from alkaline hydrolysis supernatant of excess sludge by magnesium ammonium phosphate. Bioresour Technol 166:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campos JL, Mosquera-Corral A, Sánchez M, Méndez R, Lema JM (2002) Nitrification in saline wastewater with high ammonia concentration in an activated sludge unit. Water Res 36:2555–2560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Çelen I, Türker M (2001) Recovery of ammonia as struvite from anaerobic digester effluents. Environ Technol 22:1263–1272Google Scholar
  7. Crab R, Avnimelech Y, Defoirdt T, Bossier P, Verstraete W (2007) Nitrogen removal techniques in aquaculture for a sustainable production. Aquaculture 270:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dai J, Tang WT, Zheng YS, Mackey HR, Chui HK, van Loosdrecht MCM, Chen GH (2014) An exploratory study on seawater-catalysed urine phosphorus recovery (SUPR). Water Res 66:75–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Di Iaconi C, Pagano M, Ramadori R, Lopez A (2010) Nitrogen recovery from a stabilized municipal landfill leachate. Bioresour Technol 101:1732–1736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dinçer AR, Kargi F (2001) Salt inhibition kinetics in nitrification of synthetic saline wastewater. Enzym Microb Technol 28:661–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doyle JD, Parsons SA (2002) Struvite formation, control and recovery. Water Res 36:3925–3940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gregory SP, Shields RJ, Fletcher DJ, Gatland P, Dyson PJ (2010) Bacterial community responses to increasing ammonia concentrations in model recirculating vertical flow saline biofilters. Ecol Eng 36:1485–1491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gunay A, Karadag D, Tosun I, Ozturk M (2008) Use of magnesit as a magnesium source for ammonium removal from leachate. J Hazard Mater 156:619–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Huang HM, Xu CL, Zhang W (2011) Removal of nutrients from piggery wastewater using struvite precipitation and pyrogenation technology. Bioresour Technol 102:2523–2528Google Scholar
  15. Huang H, Chen Y, Jiang Y, Ding L (2014a) Treatment of swine wastewater combined with MgO-saponification wastewater by struvite precipitation technology. Chem Eng J 254:418–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huang H, Liu J, Wang S, Jiang Y, Xiao D, Ding L, Gao F (2016) Nutrients removal from swine wastewater by struvite precipitation recycling technology with the use of Mg3(PO4)2 as active component. Ecol Eng 92:111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Huang H, Xiao D, Pang R, Han C, Ding L (2014b) Simultaneous removal of nutrients from simulated swine wastewater by adsorption of modified zeolite combined with struvite crystallization. Chem Eng J 256:431–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Huang H, Yang J, Li D (2014c) Recovery and removal of ammonia-nitrogen and phosphate from swine wastewater by internal recycling of struvite chlorination product. Bioresour Technol 172:253–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jang D, Hwang Y, Shin H, Lee W (2013) Effects of salinity on the characteristics of biomass and membrane fouling in membrane bioreactors. Bioresour Technol 141:50–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jemli M, Karray F, Feki F, Loukil S, Mhiri N, Aloui F, Sayadi S (2015) Biological treatment of fish processing wastewater: a case study from Sfax City (southeastern Tunisia). J Environ Sci (China) 30:102–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johir MAH, Vigneswaran S, Kandasamy J, BenAim R, Grasmick A (2013) Effect of salt concentration on membrane bioreactor (MBR) performances: detailed organic characterization. Desalination 322:13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kim D, Ryu HD, Kim MS, Kim J, Lee SI (2007) Enhancing struvite precipitation potential for ammonia nitrogen removal in municipal landfill leachate. J Hazard Mater 146:81–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Korchef A, Saidou H, Amor MB (2011) Phosphate recovery through struvite precipitation by CO2 removal: effect of magnesium, phosphate and ammonium concentrations. J Hazard Mater 186:602–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lahav O, Telzhensky M, Zewuhn A, Gendel Y, Gerth J, Calmano W, Birnhack L (2013) Struvite recovery from municipal-wastewater sludge centrifuge supernatant using seawater NF concentrate as a cheap Mg(II) source. Sep Purif Technol 108:103–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee SI, Weon SY, Lee CW, Koopman B (2003) Removal of nitrogen and phosphate from wastewater by addition of bittern. Chemosphere 51:265–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li W, Ding X, Liu M, Guo Y, Liu L (2012) Optimization of process parameters for mature landfill leachate pretreatment using MAP precipitation. Front Env Sci Eng 6:892–900Google Scholar
  27. Liu B, Giannis A, Zhang J, Chang VW, Wang J (2013a) Characterization of induced struvite formation from source-separated urine using seawater and brine as magnesium sources. Chemosphere 93:2738–2747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu Y, Kumar S, Kwag JH, Ra C (2013b) Magnesium ammonium phosphate formation, recovery and its application as valuable resources: a review. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 88:181–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mavinic DS, Adnan A, Koch FA (2004) Preliminary investigation into factors affecting controlled struvite crystallization at the bench scale. J Environ Eng Sci 3:195–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moussa MS, Sumanasekera DU, Ibrahim SH, Lubberding HJ, Hooijmans CM, Gijzen HJ, Van Loosdrecht MCM (2006) Long term effects of salt on activity, population structure and floc characteristics in enriched bacterial cultures of nitrifiers. Water Res 40:1377–1388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Páez-Osuna F, Guerrero-Galván SR, Ruiz-Fernández AC (1998) The environmental impact of shrimp aquaculture and the coastal pollution in Mexico. Mar Pollut Bull 36:65–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sakthivel SR, Tilley E, Udert KM (2012) Wood ash as a magnesium source for phosphorus recovery from source-separated urine. Sci Total Environ 419:68–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Siciliano A, Rosa SD (2014) Recovery of ammonia in digestates of calf manure through a struvite precipitation process using unconventional reagents. Environ Technol 35:841–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Siegrist H (1996) Nitrogen removal from digester supernatant - Comparison of chemical and biological methods. Water Sci Technol 34:399–406Google Scholar
  35. Song Y, Yuan P, Zheng B, Peng J, Yuan F, Gao Y (2007) Nutrients removal and recovery by crystallization of magnesium ammonium phosphate from synthetic swine wastewater. Chemosphere 69:319–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Teng-rui L, Xiao-dan W (2006) Review of biological treatment of hypersaline wastewater. J Cent S Univ Technol 13:195–197Google Scholar
  37. Tovar A, Moreno C, Ma MP, Garciâa-vargas M (2000) Environmental impacts of intensive aquaculture in marine waters. Science 34:334–342Google Scholar
  38. Wang XJ, Xia SQ, Chen L, Zhao JF, Renault NJ, Chovelon JM (2006) Nutrients removal from municipal wastewater by chemical precipitation in a moving bed biofilm reactor. Process Biochem 41:824–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zhang T, Ding L, Ren H (2009) Pretreatment of ammonium removal from landfill leachate by chemical precipitation. J Hazard Mater 166:911–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhou S, Wu Y (2012) Improving the prediction of ammonium nitrogen removal through struvite precipitation. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19:347–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, School of Municipal and Environmental EngineeringHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinChina
  2. 2.School of Marine Science and TechnologyHarbin Institute of Technology at WeihaiWeihaiChina
  3. 3.Marine CollegeShandong University at WeihaiWeihaiChina
  4. 4.Department of Systems Design EngineeringUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

Personalised recommendations