Laboratory batch and column experiments were carried out to examine the efficiency of algal-based treatment technique to clean-up wastewaters emanating from inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Chemical characterization revealed the extreme complexity of the wastewater, with the presence of 14 different metals under very low pH (pH = 1.1), high conductivity (6.98 mS/cm), total dissolved solid (4.46 g/L) and salinity (3.77). Batch experiments using Sargassum biomass indicated that it was possible to attain high removal efficiencies at optimum pH of 4.0. Efforts were also made to continuously treat ICP-OES wastewater using up-flow packed column. However, swelling of Sargassum biomass leads to stoppage of column. To address the problem, Sargassum was mixed with sand at a ratio of 40: 60 on volume basis. Remarkably, the hybrid Sargassum-sand sorbent showed very high removal efficiency towards multiple metal ions with the column able to operate for 11 h at a flow rate of 10 mL/min. Metal ions such as Cu, Cd, and Pb were only under trace levels in the treated water until 11 h. The results of the treatment process were compared with trade effluent discharge standards. Further the process evaluation and cost analysis were presented. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.