Evaluation of activated sludge treatment and settleability in remediation of edible oil effluent

  • K Reddy
  • GD Drysdale
  • F Bux


Wastewater discharged from the edible oil industry contains a very concentrated amalgamation of organic and inorganic materials making it a problematic effluent to treat. The aim of this study was to evaluate the activated sludge treatment of edible oil effluent from a sunflower oil processing company in KwaZulu-Natal. A 28 ℓ laboratory-scale modified Ludzack-Ettinger (MLE) activated sludge process was used to treat refinery effluent from the industry. Pre-flocculation of the effluent was necessary to remove the bulk of the fats, oils and greases (FOG) prior to treatment. Routine analyses of chemical oxygen demand (COD), total nitrogen (N), total phosphorus (TP), total suspended solids (TSS), dilute sludge volume index (DSVI) and FOG were conducted in conjunction with microscopic analyses of floc structure, filamentous bacteria and protozoa. An average COD removal of 81% was obtained for the flocculated effluent, at a 15 d sludge age and 24 h hydraulic retention time. However, significantly high TSS values were observed in the treated effluent as a result of sludge-oil aggregation, pin-point floc formation and high numbers of freeswimming bacteria. Microscopic analysis confirmed an absence of filamentous bacteria resulting in poor floc formation, subject to shearing. Periods of soybean oil effluent addition, however, resulted in sludge bulking with DSVI measurements as high as 770 mℓ /g. Fluctuating protozoan populations were also correlated to fluctuating TSS values and were found to be negatively impacted by uncontrolled pre-flocculation.

Water SA Vol.29(3) 2003: 245-250

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eISSN: 0378-4738