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Electrochemical treatment of a wastewater with a very high ammoniacal nitrogen and chloride concentrations


The origin of ammoniacal nitrogen in the environment can be due to both industrial and natural activities, such as those generated by the livestock industry and municipal effluent discharge. The choice of treatment method depends on the characteristics of the effluent, as well as the destination to be given to the treated effluent. Then, the objective of this paper was to investigate the electrochemical removal of ammoniacal nitrogen and nitrate from a real wastewater containing high ammoniacal nitrogen, organic matter, and chloride ions concentration. The conversion of ammoniacal nitrogen to by-products was investigated using a Ti/RuO2 as anode. A 49%- conversion, was achieved after only 3 h of electrolysis. The conversion of ammoniacal nitrogen to by-products increased from 49 to 69.6% when the time was increased from 4 to 8 h. Results indicated that the effluent pre-treatment with activated carbon before the electrolysis considerably reduces the nitrate formation throughout all the electrolysis time. For the wastewater without pre-treatment, the nitrate concentration increased from approximately 18.5–98.0 mg L−1, when the electrolysis time was increased from 0 to 5 h respectively; while for wastewater with activated carbon pre-treatment, the nitrate concentration was reduced from 18.5 to 0.3 mg L−1 after 4 h of electrolysis. The smaller amount of nitrate can be associated to the partial removal of organic matter before the electrolysis. A NH3-N removal, from the bulk sample, greater than 85% was achieved after a pre-treatment with activated carbon followed by an 8-h electrolysis with a current density of 35 mA cm−2. Additionally, the concentration of chloramines remained the same, around 0.1 mg L−1, which is below of the limit stablished by Brazilian legislation for human consumption. This technique can provide an interesting alternative for a primary treatment of such a wastewater.

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The authors are thankful to Vale S.A. and their employees (Austregésilo Guimarães and Francelino Santos) for their technical support and samples’ shipment for this research.


Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior Grant No. 88881.130645/2016–01.

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Correspondence to Iranildes D. Santos.

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Brígido, C.R.S., de Almeida Lemos, F., Santos, I.D. et al. Electrochemical treatment of a wastewater with a very high ammoniacal nitrogen and chloride concentrations. Braz. J. Chem. Eng. (2022).

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  • Electrooxidation
  • Fertilizers
  • Ammoniacal nitrogen
  • Nitrate
  • Chloride ions
  • Activated carbon