A comparative study of freeze-thaw processes for conditioning wastewater and water treatment sludges

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This research effort involved the application of indirect- and direct-contact, freeze-thaw conditioning techniques for improving the dewatering characteristics of both wastewater and water treatment sludges. Sludges tested included waste activated sludge, primary sewage sludge, waste activated/primary sewage sludge mixtures and alum sludge. The direct-freeze methods examined were the use of a secondary refrigerant (butane) evaporated in the sludge and the use of gas hydrate or clathrate formation by addition of Freon 12 under appropriate temperature and pressure conditions. Sludges were also frozen solid using indirect freezing methods, thawed and tested for comparative purposes. Particle size distribution and floc density measurements were used to determine changes in particle characteristics; specific resistance values and dewatered dry solids concentration were used to assess dewatering characteristics. Results of direct- and indirect-contact, freeze-thaw conditioning were compared to the effects of polymer conditioning. The results indicated that direct-freeze methods do not appear technically or economically competitive with currently accepted conditioning methods. The superior results obtained with the indirect-contact, freeze-thaw process when compared to the direct-contact processes suggested that the extent and rate of freezing may greatly influence the particle characteristics of the conditioned sludge, and thus its dewatering characteristics.