Characteristics and conditioning of anaerobically digested sludge from a biological phosphorus removal plant

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Virginia Tech


A study of the anaerobically digested sludge form a full-scale biological phosphorus removal (BPR) plant (York River Wastewater Treatment Plant, York River, Va.) was conducted to determine the effects of BPR on sludge characteristics and conditioning requirements. Data collected from the plant indicated that both the total and soluble phosphorus (P) concentrations in the anaerobically digested sludge increased dramatically with the initiation of BPR. Accompanying this increase in total P was an increase in the total concentrations of magnesium and potassium content of the sludge, supporting the observations that these ions are co-transported with P during the accumulation and release of P by P accumulating organisms. The majority of the phosphate present in the pre- and post- BPR anaerobically digested sludges was bound by calcium, magnesium, and iron phosphorus precipitates including hydroxyapatite, struvite, and vivianite. Calcium phosphorus precipitates were the most prevalent in both sludges, but the percentage of magnesium phosphorus precipitates increased with the onset of BPR.

Cationic organic polymer conditioning dosages needed to achieve acceptable sludge dewatering rates for the post-BPR sludge were similar to those required by the pre-BPR sludge. The cationic organic polymer used to condition these sludges was ineffective in removing excess phosphate; therefore, the addition of either one or both of the inorganic chemicals ferric chloride and calcium hydroxide was required to remove soluble phosphorus. Conditioning with either ferric chloride or calcium hydroxide alone was not effective in achieving acceptable dewatering rates; however, when used together the chemicals produced acceptable dewatering rates and soluble P removal from the post-BPR sludge.