Evaluating the Source-Effect Relationship of Industrial Toxins in Wastewater Treatment

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Virginia Tech

Upset events due to the inflow of toxic chemicals are a critical issue for wastewater treatment facilities. Understanding the source-effect relationship of toxic chemicals can facilitate the prevention or improved reaction to upset events. Part one of this study was conducted to investigate the source of upset events at a regional industrial wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Part two of this study determined the process performance effects of two chemical shocks, cyanide (zinc-cyanide complex) and pH, on nitrifying and non-nitrifying activated sludge.

A modified respirometric assay protocol was developed to allow the industrial WWTP to screen industrial wastewaters for inhibitory properties. All five industrial wastewaters tested revealed inhibitory properties. Large day-to-day variations were found, illustrating the need for a large database of results for comparison over time. Additionally, a small volume contributor, that was thought by the utility to be an unlikely source of problems, contributed significantly to the wastewater oxygen demand and demonstrated inhibitory properties. The modified respirometric procedure enabled the WWTP to identify possible industrial sources that could cause an upset event.

Lab-scale sequencing-batch reactors were used to determine the effects of cyanide and pH shock on activated sludge. Three reactors were shocked with increasing weak-acid complexed zinc cyanide or pHs of 5, 9, and 11. The resulting effects were compared to an un-shocked control reactor. It was found that respiration and nitrification were affected by the zinc cyanide complex, while COD removal, effluent TSS and dewaterability were not. Recovery was seen in less than 2 X solids residence time (SRT) for the nitrifying biomass and within 3 X SRT for the non-nitrifying biomass. The results of the pH experiment showed that the pH 11 shock affected the settleability, nitrification, COD removal, and effluent TSS levels of the reactors, while pH 5 and pH 9 shocks had no effect. Recovery was seen within 3 X SRT for both the nitrifying and non-nitrifying systems.

respiration, cyanide, pH, toxicity, Activated sludge