The anaerobic treatment of low strength soluble wastewaters

M.T. Kato

Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


<p>Low strength soluble wastewaters with chemical oxygen demand (COD) of less than 2000 mg/I are mostly from food processing industries. They commonly contain simple substrates such as short- chain fatty acids, alcohols and carbohydrates. The application of anaerobic technology has been mostly directed towards the treatment of medium and high strength wastewaters rather than those of low strength. Problems limiting the treatment of dilute wastewaters are related to the wastewater and the reactor design. This dissertation investigates the application of the conventional upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) and its modification, the expanded granular sludge bed (EGSB), for the treatment of low strength soluble wastewaters. The main topics studied concern the wastewater related problems. Ile effect of dissolved oxygen on the methanogenic activity of granular sludges and the effect of low substrate levels inside reactors on the treatment performance were evaluated. Moreover, some aspects of reactor design related problems such as the retention of biomass and wastewaterbiomass contact were considered.<p>Methanogens located in granular sludge have a high tolerance to oxygen. The concentration of oxygen found to cause 50% inhibition to methanogenic activity was between 7% and 41 % oxygen in the head space of flasks, which corresponded to 0.05 mg/ <em>l</em> and 6 mg/ <em>l</em> of dissolved oxygen prevailing in the media, respectively. The most important mechanism for the tolerance was the consumption of oxygen by facultative bacteria while metabolizing substrates. The most highly tolerant sludges had the highest respiration rates. The hypothesis considered is that anaerobic microenvironments are created inside granules protecting the methanogens. The absence of facultative substrate for respiring oxygen decreases the tolerance of methanognens to O <sub><font size="-2">2</font></sub> . The coexistence of methanogenic and facultative bacteria competing for substrate in one single bioreactor was explored under highly aerobic conditions, in order to verify the possible application of anaerobic-aerobic cocultures for the removal of recalcitrant pollutants. Simultaneous methane production and oxygen uptake occurred in an oxygen tolerant sludge while at least 2 mg/ <em>l</em> of dissolved oxygen was present in the media. The healthy co-culture was evident even after longer periods of oxygen exposure, when methane oxidizing bacteria eventually also developed.<p>The feasibility of UASB and EGSB reactors at 30°C was demonstrated. In UASB reactors, COD removal efficiencies exceeded 95% at organic loading rates (OLR) up to 6.8 g COD/ <em>l</em> .d and influent COD concentrations (COD <sub><font size="-2">in</font></sub> ) ranging from 422 to 943 mg/ <em>l</em> , during the treatment of ethanol substrate. The efficiencies exceeded 86% at OLR up to 3.9 mg COD/ <em>l</em> .d when whey was used as a substrate. Below 630 mg COD/ <em>l</em> , acidification of whey instead of methanogenesis was the rate limiting step. The retention of biomass is not a problem in the UASB, but the mixing intensity is not high enough to decrease the biofilm diffusion limitation of substrate transport into granular biofilms. The EGSB was shown to have superior potentials compared with the UASB. COD removal efficiencies were above 80% at OLRs up to 12 g COD/ <em>l</em> .d with COD <sub><font size="-2">in</font></sub> as low as 100 to 200 mg/ <em>l</em> . The effect of low substrate levels was not significant in the EGSB due to the intense turbulent mixing regime obtained by applying high hydraulic and organic loads. The very low apparent <em>K</em><sub><font size="-2">S</font></sub> value of 9.8 mg COD/ <em>l</em> found for the biofilms in the reactor, was comparable to the intrinsic <em>K</em><sub><font size="-2">S</font></sub> values determined for the most predominant acetoclastic methanogen found in anaerobic bioreactors, <em>Methanothrix soehngenii.</em> This indicates that all transport limitations of substrate movement into the biofilms were overcome. Optimized operation without sludge washout is achieved when liquid upflow velocities (V <sub><font size="-2">up</font></sub> ) below 5.5 m/h are applied. The problem of sludge retention is also restricted when sludge flotation occurs due to the buoyancy forces of gas attached to biofilms. The required equilibrium between mixing intensity and sludge retention limits the operation of the EGSB to OLRs up to 7 g COD/ <em>l</em> .d and V <sub><font size="-2">up</font></sub> values ranging from 2.5 and 5.5 m/h. Both reactor studies confirmed that in practice dissolved oxygen does not constitute any detrimental effect on the treatment performance. Improved mixing intensity in the UASB and improved sludge retention in the EGSB will enable higher OLRs and lower COD <sub><font size="-2">in</font></sub> which can be tolerated, compared with those of this study.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Lettinga, G., Promotor, External person
  • Field, J.A., Promotor, External person
Award date10 Jun 1994
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789054852735
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • waste water treatment
  • water treatment
  • anaerobic treatment
  • sewage
  • waste water
  • industry
  • industrial wastes
  • food industry
  • food technology

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