Anaerobic Digestion: Factors Effecting Odor Generation

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Virginia Tech

Land application of anaerobically stabilized biosolids is a beneficial method of handling the solid residuals from a wastewater treatment plant. One of the main issues that restrict land application of biosolids is nuisance odors associated with biosolids. Despite its importance, few studies have been done to enhance our knowledge of odor causing processes. This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of some factors that have been thought to be linked to odor generation from biosolids. The first part of this study has looked at the role of metals, iron and aluminum in particular, in determining the odor causing processes. The results showed that iron correlated well with headspace organic sulfur odor. In general, as the iron content of sludge increased greater amounts of odorous sulfur gases were produced from dewatered biosolids cakes. Aluminum did not show any relationship with organic sulfur odors. Parameters commonly used for assessing the performance of anaerobic digesters (volatile solids reduction (VSR), residual biological activity (RBA) and effluent volatile fatty acid (VFA) content) also showed no correlation with odors.

The second part of the study focused on determining the impact of anaerobic digester solids retention time (SRT) on the odor generation from dewatered biosolids cakes and also on elucidating the nature and impact of the various Extracellular Polymeric Substances (EPS) fractions on odors. The results showed that odors decreased with an increase in the anaerobic digester SRT. VSR and RBA correlated with odors; however, as only one type of sludge was assessed, the conclusions about any relationship may not be universal. The results also showed that sulfur gas generation was a function of EPS material bound to iron, again showing that iron plays an important role in odor generation from dewatered sludge cakes.

The third part of the study looked at the effects of advanced digestion processes on odor generation. Digested sludge from acid/gas and temperature phased anaerobic digestion systems were analyzed in the lab. The results show that both acid/gas system and temperature phased digestion had a positive impact on odor generation from dewatered biosolids cake. Comparison of sludge from pancake shaped and egg shaped digesters showed that egg shaped digester was more efficient with regard to odor reduction.

SRT, trivalent metals, organic sulfur, odor, biosolids, advanced digestion processes