The Biological Sludge Reduction by anaerobic/aerobic cycling
An activated sludge system that incorporates a sidestream anaerobic bioreactor, called the Cannibal process, was the focus of this study. A prior study of this process (Novak et al., 2007) found that this system generated about 60% less solids than conventional activated sludge without any negative effects on the effluent quality. Although that study showed substantial solids reduction, questions remain concerning the specific mechanism(s) that account for the solids loss. In this study, the mechanisms that account for the loss of biological solids was the focus of the investigation.
The first part of this study was conducted to evaluate those effects in terms of the role of iron in the influent wastewater and feeding patterns on the performance of the Cannibal system. It was found that the Cannibal system with high iron in the influent produced less biological solids than the system receiving low iron. The data also showed that the Cannibal system operated under fast feed (high substrate pressure) produced much less solids than the system with slow feed (low substrate pressure). The high substrate pressure was achieved by feeding the influent wastewater to the Cannibal system over a short time period so that the substrate concentration would initially peak and then decline as degradation occurred. This is called "fast feed." For low substrate pressure, the influent was added slowly so the substrate concentration remained low at all times. This is called "slow feed." Later, an attempt to increase substrate pressure in the slow feed Cannibal system was conducted by either manipulating the aeration patterns or adding a small reactor in front of the main reactor (selector). It was found that either interrupting aeration in the aerobic reactor or providing a small aerobic reactor in front of the main reactor resulted in an increase in solids reduction.
The second part of this study was to investigate the mechanisms of floc destruction in the fast and the slow feed Cannnibal systems. It was found that higher accumulation of biopolymers (proteins and polysaccharides) occurred in the fast feed system and this was associated with a greater solids reduction in the fast than the slow feed system. In addition, more protein hydrolysis and more Fe(III)-reducing microorganism activity in the fast feed environment were found to be factors in higher solids reduction.
The last part of this study was to investigate the structure of the Cannibal sludge flocs generated under the fast and the slow feed conditions. It was found that the readily biodegradable (1 kDa.) protein is larger in the flocs from the fast feed than the slow feed Cannibal system. This resulted in higher floc destruction in the fast feed condition.