Column: Rob Simm

Published on
April 19, 2021

Senior Vice President Water, at Stantec, Chandler, Arizona, USA

Selenium – The Case for Recovery

Selenium (Se) can reach the aquatic environment from several anthropogenic sources. Elevated intake of Se has resulted in teratogenic effects in fish and birds. North America has had some of the most widely publicized Se contamination events, resulting in the world’s most stringent aquatic water quality guidelines.

Biological treatment has been identified by several regulators and industry organizations as the best available technology to achieve ultra-low Se effluent limits. A review completed for the NAMC-SWG suggested: “despite numerous installations, selenium treatment technologies have not reached full maturity and should be regarded as developmental.” 

Cost effective selenium recovery is a key research focus area. Active biological treatment system residuals are typically landfilled, raising the possibility of Se remobilization in landfill leachates. There is a growing need for collaboration between global industries and programs engaged in leading edge Se treatment and recovery research like the Department of ETE of Wageningen University to develop Se recovery technologies that remove and keep Se from anthropogenic sources out of the aquatic environment.

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