Among the critical issues that prevent the reuse of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) effluents in a circular economy perspective, the microbiological component plays a key role causing infections and diseases. To date, the use of conventional chemical oxidants (e.g., chlorine) represent the main applied process for wastewater (WW) disinfection following a series of operational advantages. However, toxicity linked to the production of highly dangerous disinfection by-products (DBPs) has been widely demonstrated. Therefore, in recent years, there is an increasing attention to implement sustainable processes, which can simultaneously guarantee the microbiological quality of the WWs treated and the protection of both humans and the environment. This review focuses on treatments based on ultraviolet radiation (UV) alone or in combination with other processes (sonophotolysis, photocatalysis and photoelectrocatalysis with both natural and artificial light) without the dosage of chemical oxidants. The strengths of these technologies and the most significant critical issues are reported. To date, the use of synthetic waters in laboratory tests despite real waters, the capital and operative costs and the limited, or absent, experience of full-scale plant management (especially for UV-based combined processes) represent the main limits to their application on a larger scale. Although further in-depth studies are required to ensure full applicability of UV-based combined processes in WWTPs for reuse of their purified effluents, excellent prospects are presented thanks to an absent environmental impact in terms of DBPs formation and excellent disinfection yields of microorganisms (in most cases higher than 3-log reduction).
Collivignarelli, Maria Cristina
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