Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment with Attached Microbial Films

Twenty years ago, no evidence existed to suggest that dilute wastewater could be treated anaerobically at an ambient temperature. Prodded by the 1973 energy crisis, Jewell (1981) and co-workers converted a fluidized-bed reactor for anaerobic methane fermentation and studied municipal sewage treatment (Jewell, Switzenbaum, and Morris 1979).

This study led to the discovery of an efficient process capable of operating at high biomass concentrations of 30,000 ppm. At retention times of <30 min, this anaerobic process removed most biodegradable organics from municipal wastewater, reducing the COD to <40 ppm and the SS to <5 ppm. The volumetric density of the anaerobic film exceeded 100 kg VSS/m3. The net yield of the biomass produced was Y = 0.1 kg VSS/kg COD. This density gave a solids residence time (SRT) that was three to eight times that of the aerobic process. Ultimately, the biomass concentration of the anaerobic attached-film-expanded bed (AFEB) could approach 100,000 ppm. This concentration raises the COD removal rates to >50 kg/m3/day and still maintains an SRT >30 days.

An aerobic AFEB cannot operate at these high-rate conditions without washout. However, an aerobic AFEB can ultimately produce a lower effluent COD and nitrify ammonia. A series treatment with an anaerobic AFEB followed by an aerobic AFEB, with each unit having a 15-min retention time, resulted in a superb effluent quality with a COD = 10, an SS = 1, and a turbidity of 2.

Figure 7.35.12 contrasts the aerobic and anaerobic AFEB processes. Up to an organic loading of 2 kg/m3/day, the two processes are about equal. At higher loading rates, the anaerobic AFEB process produces a better effluent COD.

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