An evaluation of polyelectrolytes in the chemical treatment of textile mill wastes

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


With the advent of polyester fibers, disperse dyes, with complex chemical carriers and surfactants have been introduced. These dispersing agents inhibited chemical treatment and passed through biological facilities untreated. Therefore, it was the purpose of this study to ascertain whether chemical treatment with polyelectrolytes could achieve an economical treatment.

The study consisted of the evaluation of flocculation performance (turbidity, chemical oxygen demand, and color reductions) for treatments with alum alone and alum with polyelectrolytes. A univariant search technique was used to optimize the flocculation performance with respect to the three parameters, pH, alum concentration, and polyelectrolyte concentration.

The results of the alum treatment revealed that the chemical oxygen demand reduction was inadequate, although turbidity and color reductions were sufficient, to permit disposal of the effluent to the stream. When cationic polyelectrolytes were used with alum the results were greatly improved compared to alum. Reductions of turbidity, chemical oxygen demand, and color greater than 80 per cent were attained with two cationic polyelectrolytes. The flocculation performance with anionic polyelectrolytes was inferior to treatment with alum and alum with cationic polyelectrolytes. The floc was faster settling for all polyelectrolyte treatments. The volume of sludge in alum treatment was two to 2.5 times greater than for treatment with polyelectrolytes.

Considering the present value determinations, aerated lagoons were the least expensive investment and would be the obvious means of treatment. However, if restrictions such as color reduction were imposed, chemical treatment with polyelectrolytes may be justified.