The potential of microalgae to bioremediate wastewater has been reported in numerous studies but has not been investigated as extensively for landfill leachate, which may be attributed to its complex nature and toxicity.
In this study we explored if microalgal phycoremediation could constitute an alternative biological treatment option for landfill leachate management in regions with temperate climatic conditions. The aim of this study was to assess the performance of microalgae species at relatively low temperature (15 °C) and light intensity (14:10 h, light: dark, 22 μmol m−2 s−1) for reduction in energy inputs. Four chlorophyte strains originating from the North-West of Ireland were selected and used in batch experiments in order to evaluate their ability to reduce total ammonia nitrogen, oxidised nitrogen and orthophosphate in landfill leachate. The Chlamydomonas sp. strain SW15aRL isolated from raw leachate achieved the highest level of pollutant reduction whereby a decrease of 51.7% of ammonia nitrogen was observed in 10% raw leachate (∼100 mg l−1 NH4+-N) by day 24 in experiments without culture agitation. However, in the experiment conducted with 10% raw leachate supplemented with phosphate, a decrease of 90.7% of ammonia nitrogen was obtained by day 24 while also achieving higher biomass production. This series of experiments pointed to phosphorus being a limiting factor in the microalgae based phycoremediation of the landfill leachate.
The effective reduction of ammonia nitrogen in landfill leachate can be achieved at lower temperature and light conditions. This was attained by employing native species adapted to such conditions and by improving nutrient balance.