Abstract

A by-product of petroleum extraction, produced waters (PWs) containing selenium (Se), arsenic (As), and low-molecular-weight organics (LMWOs) may be generated. Pilot-scale constructed wetland treatment systems (CWTSs) were designed and built to evaluate the removal of these constituents from simulated fresh PW (SFPW). Study objectives were to characterize a fresh PW and determine the constituents of concern (COC); formulate an SFPW; design and build a pilot-scale CWTS for SFPW; and measure performance (i.e., COC removal rates and extents). The treatment goals for this study were to decrease Se concentration in SFPW from approximately 50 μg/L to less than 5 μg/L via microbial reduction; decrease As concentration in SFPW from approximately 20 μg/L to less than 5 μg/L via iron coprecipitation; and decrease LMWO concentration in SFPW from approximately 25 mg/L to less than 1 mg/L via biodegradation. To determine COC removal rates and extents and environmental factors, measurements included analysis of Se, As, LMWOs, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, oxidation-reduction potential, alkalinity, hardness, and temperature. Mean outflow Se concentrations ranged from less than 1 to 47.1 μg/L. Mean outflow As concentrations ranged from 5.7 to 9.5 μg/L, and the mean outflow LMWO concentrations were less than 1 mg/L for all treatments and the untreated control. Organic carbon amendments had a significant effect on Se removal and no effect on As or LMWO removal. This pilot-scale study illustrates that CWTSs can enhance Se removal from SFPW and that removal can be achieved to meet stringent discharge limits. More research is needed to advance the techniques of As removal in CWTSs designed to simultaneously target Se.

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