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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Improvements in the aerobic digestion of waste activated sludge through chemical control of mixed liquor pH : pilot-scale investigations Anderson, Bruce Campbell


Pilot-scale ambient and low temperature research into the enhancement of aerobic digestion of waste activated sludge, through control of mixed liquor pH (MLpH), was performed using an extended aeration and a high rate waste sludge. To offset MLpH decreases encountered during nitrification, Ca(OH)₂ and NaHCO₃ were used to control MLpH in the series pH 6, 7 and 8. The performance and behaviour of the digesters, under both controlled and uncontrolled MLpH conditions, were monitored through parameters related to volatile mass reduction, sludge mass metabolism, quality of digested end-product and soluble characteristics of the digester effluent. Volatile mass reduction was significantly affected by MLpH control, under certain conditions. Improvements in reduction performance of >100% over the uncontrolled condition were noted, depending on sludge origin; however, it was concluded that only certain temperature ranges should be targeted for the most effective use of MLpH control, since use of MLpH control in ranges wherein little improvement would be realized was felt to be uneconomical. Analysis of volatile mass reduction rates, based on a series of 1 day batch conditions (necessitated by the reactor flow scheme and the variability of the digestion process), demonstrated that reactor performance oscillated around a mean performance value; MLpH control acted to reduce these oscillations, such that the digesters performed closer to the mean value more of the time. Temperature sensitivity coefficients were quite variable, and a single value did not describe all situations. It was proposed that θ was influenced by digestion system, operating temperature, sludge type and MLpH level. The use of this coefficient for determining the operating ranges most suitable for MLpH control was advanced. The fate of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus were greatly influenced by MLpH control. The use of Ca(OH)₂ resulted in less release of phosphorus from the solid phase, with subsequently low effluent PO₄-P concentrations in the neutral MLpH range. The drawback of this reaction was found to be the production of inert inorganic sludge solids, thereby illustrating the need for a trade-off between the various benefits and drawbacks of the enhanced digestion process. Nitrification proceeded at all temperatures, and in conditions previously thought to be inhibitory to the chemolithotrophic organisms. Digester effluent quality was improved through MLpH control, but substantial concentrations of NOx-N were observed under some conditions. Based on direct comparisons with previous lab-scale research, it was concluded that the enhancement process had very good potential for implementation at the full-scale level, either for the improvement of existing underdesigned processes, or for the initial design of more efficient aerobic digestion facilities.

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