Environmental impacts of conventional and emerging perchlorate drinking water treatment technologies were assessed using life cycle assessment (LCA). Comparison of two ion exchange (IX) technologies (i.e., nonselective IX with periodic regeneration using brines and perchlorate-selective IX without regeneration) at an existing plant shows that brine is the dominant contributor for nonselective IX, which shows higher impact than perchlorate-selective IX. Resource consumption during the operational phase comprises >80% of the total impacts. Having identified consumables as the driving force behind environmental impacts, the relative environmental sustainability of IX, biological treatment, and catalytic reduction technologies are compared more generally using consumable inputs. The analysis indicates that the environmental impacts of heterotrophic biological treatment are 2-5 times more sensitive to influent conditions (i.e., nitrate/oxygen concentration) and are 3-14 times higher compared to IX. However, autotrophic biological treatment is most environmentally beneficial among all. Catalytic treatment using carbon-supported Re-Pd has a higher (ca. 4600 times) impact than others, but is within 0.9-30 times the impact of IX with a newly developed ligand-complexed Re-Pd catalyst formulation. This suggests catalytic reduction can be competitive with increased activity. Our assessment shows that while IX is an environmentally competitive, emerging technologies also show great promise from an environmental sustainability perspective.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry