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The removal of N and P in aerobic and anoxic-aerobic digestion of waste activated sludge from biological nutrient removal systems

M Vogts, DS Ikumi, GA Ekama


Biological nutrient removal (BNR) activated sludge (AS) systems produce a waste activated sludge (WAS) that is rich in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). When this sludge is thickened to 3–6% total suspended solids (TSS) and digested (aerobic or anaerobic), a high proportion of N and P are released to the bulk liquid resulting in high concentrations of ammonia/nitrate and orthophosphate up to several hundred mg/ℓ (without denitrification or P precipitation). This research investigates P removal by P precipitation in anoxic-aerobic digestion of P-rich BNR system WAS. The experimental setup for this work was a lab-scale membrane UCT BNR system fed real settled sewage with added acetate, orthophosphate, and cations Mg and K to increase biological excess P removal. This WAS was fed to batch aerobic digesters at various TSS concentrations, and to two 20-day retention time continuous anoxic-aerobic digesters (AnAerDig) with aeration cycles of 3-h air on and 3-h air off, one fed concentrated WAS (20 g TSS/ℓ ) and the other fed diluted WAS (3 g TSS/ℓ). Nitrogen removal has been discussed in the previous paper. This paper focuses on the P removal by P precipitation observed in the batch tests and continuous systems. The rate of polyphosphate release (bGP) during batch aerobic digestion at low TSS without P precipitation was found to be 2.5 times faster than the endogenous respiration rate (bG) of phosphorus accumulating organics (PAO), i.e. bGP = 0.1/d. This rate was then applied to the high-TSS aerobic batch tests and continuous anoxic-aerobic digesters to estimate the P precipitation at various TSS concentrations, with and without additional Mg or Ca dosing. Newberyite (MgHPO4·3H2O) and amorphous tricalcium phosphate (ACP or TCP, Ca3(PO4)2·xH2O) are found to be the most common phosphate precipitates.

Keywords: biological excess phosphorus removal, waste activated sludge, anoxic-aerobic digestion, phosphaterelease, mineral precipitation
AJOL African Journals Online