Process Microbiology

This section briefly discusses two low-cost, suspended-growth wastewater treatment systems—stabilization ponds and aerated lagoons.

Stabilization ponds possess a similar biological community as activated-sludge with the addition of an algal population. Oxygen is supplied in an aerobic photosyn-thetic pond by natural reaeration from the atmosphere and algal photosynthesis. The oxygen released by photosyn-thetic algae is used by bacteria to degrade organic matter (see Figure 7.22.3). Degradation by bacteria releases carbon dioxide and nutrients used by algae. Higher life forms such as rotifers and protozoa are also present in the pond and function primarily as polishers of the effluent. Temperature has a significant effect on aerobic pond operation. Organic loading, pH, nutrients, sunlight, and degree of mixing also affect each microbial group's population throughout the pond.

In facultative ponds, two different biological communities exist. The microbial community of the pond's upper layer is similar to that of an aerobic pond, whereas microorganisms in the lower and bottom layers are facultative and anaerobic (see Figure 7.27.1). Respiration occurs in the presence of sunlight; however, the net effect is oxygen production, i.e., photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, algae uses carbon dioxide, resulting in high pH levels in low alkalinity wastewater. In facultative ponds, algae can use bicarbonate as a carbon source for cell growth; when this occurs, there is a diurnal fluctuation in pH. However, at high-pH levels, carbonate and hydroxide species predominate. In wastewater containing a high concentration of calcium, calcium carbonate precipitates preventing the pH from rising any higher.

The microbiology involved in an aerated-lagoon process is similar to that of an activated-sludge process. However, differences arise because the large surface area of lagoons can cause more temperature effects than normally encountered in conventional activated-sludge processes. Aerobic digestion—a process that treats organic sludges produced from various treatment operations—is similar to the activated-sludge process.

When the available substrate supply is depleted, microorganisms consume their own protoplasm to obtain energy for cell maintenance and enter the endogenous phase. Cell tissue is aerobically oxidized to carbon dioxide, water, and ammonia. The cell tissue actually oxidized is 70 to 80%, with inert components and nonbiodegradable organic matter remaining. The ammonia produced in cell tissue oxidation is eventually oxidized to nitrate digestion proceeds.

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