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Analysis of an anaerobic baffled reactor treating complex particulate wastewater in an abr-membrane bioreactor unit.

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Providing water and proper sanitation to poor communities by 2015 is one of the United Nations targets for this millennium. In South Africa many communities aspire to waterborne sanitation. However, there is a technology gap for decentralized and sustainable waterborne sanitation systems capable of treating domestic wastewater (Foxon et al., 2006). Although domestic wastewater is more commonly treated using aerobic processes, anaerobic processes may be more appropriate for decentralized applications since they do not require aeration. Research is currently being undertaken to understand the behavior of a combined ABR-MBR unit for treating domestic wastewater. In this study, the anaerobic baffled reactor (ABR) was investigated by analyzing physico-chemical and biochemical data from experiments on a laboratory-scale ABR. This anaerobic reactor was treating complex particulate wastewater made up of sludge from the ventilated improved pit latrine toilets (known as VIP sludge). The main focus of this study was to establish the relationship between the increasing organic loading rates and the effluent characteristics (such as chemical oxygen demand: COD and extrapolymeric substances: EPS). The present work was structured in two parts; in the first part the reactor was operated at constant hydraulic retention time (HRT) without controlling feed characteristics. In the second part, the ABR was operated with step increases in organic loading rates. It was logistically not possible to provide a feed of real domestic wastewater to the laboratory-scale equipment. Consequently, a pit latrine sludge diluted with tap water was used to feed the ABR. This feed was found to have different biodegradability characteristics compared to domestic wastewater. However, the results still give insight into the performance of the ABR and into the treatability of VIP sludge. COD removal ranged from 52 to 80 % depending on the inlet COD. Some COD removal was due to solids retention in compartments, while it was estimated that only 28% of COD removal was due to biological degradation. Soluble extrapolymeric substances (proteins and carbohydrates) which are usually a by -product of anaerobic degradation were higher in the feed than in the effluent despite the increasing organic loading rates. However, more than 50 % of soluble extrapolymeric substances from the influent remained in the effluent and were found (in a parallel project) to influence membrane fouling in the membrane section of the experimental set-up (ABR-MBR unit). Parameters such as pH, conductivity, alkalinity, total and volatile solids were also investigated in this study. The pH decreased slightly from the inlet to the outlet during all runs even though the loading rates were increased. Conductivity increased significantly from influent to effluent with the increasing organic loading rates. Large amounts of total solids were retained in the reactor during the treatment process. Low alkalinity production was recorded during the operation of the reactor. In most cases, the data recorded in this study showed a low biological activity taking place while the reactor was working at room temperatures. Overall, up to 80% of removal efficiencies in terms of total COD and solids were recorded with increasing organic loading rates at constant hydraulic retention time. While these results do not allow the prediction of ABR-MBR performance during the treatment of real wastewater, it was concluded that: Most solids retention occurred in the feed tank. Most COD removal occurred as a result of solids retention and digestion. Loading characteristics did not strongly influence effluent EPS, pH or alkalinity, but did influence COD and conductivity. The relatively low biodegradability of the feedstock indicates that anaerobic digestion is not the most appropriate treatment for VIP sludge.


Thesis (M.Sc.Eng.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2010.


Sewage--Purification--Anaerobic treatment., Sewage disposal plants.