Challenge of psychrophilic anaerobic wastewater treatment

G Lettinga, S Rebac, G Zeeman
Trends in Biotechnology 2001, 19 (9): 363-70
Psychrophilic anaerobic treatment is an attractive option for wastewaters that are discharged at moderate to low temperature. The expanded granular sludge bed (EGSB) reactor has been shown to be a feasible system for anaerobic treatment of mainly soluble and pre-acidified wastewater at temperatures of 5--10 degrees C. An organic loading rate (OLR) of 10--12 kg chemical oxygen demand (COD) per cubic meter reactor per day can be achieved at 10--12 degrees C with a removal efficiency of 90%. Further improvement might be obtained by a two-module system in series. Stabile methanogenesis was observed at temperatures as low as 4--5 degrees C. The specific activity of the mesophilic granular sludge was improved under psychrophilic conditions, which indicates that there was growth and enrichment of methanogens and acetogens in the anaerobic system. Anaerobic sewage treatment is a real challenge in moderate climates because sewage belongs to the 'complex' wastewater category and contains a high fraction of particulate COD. A two-step system consisting of either an anaerobic up-flow sludge bed (UASB) reactor combined with an EGSB reactor or an anaerobic filter (AF) combined with an anaerobic hybrid reactor (AH) is successful for anaerobic treatment of sewage at 13 degrees C with a total COD removal efficiency of 50% and 70%, respectively.

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