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Desalination 242 (2009) 325335

Coupling of sequencing batch reactor and UASB reactor for domestic wastewater treatment
A. Moawada, U.F. Mahmouda, M.A. El-Khateebb*, E. El-Mollaa

Sanitary Engineer Department, Faculty of Engineering, El-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt b National Research Center, Water Pollution control Department, Cairo, Egypt Tel. +20 (2) 37755947; Fax +20 (2) 33370931; email:

Received 7 January 2008; accepted revised 20 May 2008

Abstract Wastewater treatment performance of the combined process of upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor and sequencing batch reactor (SBR) was studied. An experimental study has been conducted investigating the performance of the system under different operating conditions. Three experimental runs were considered. The retention time in the UASB was changed from 4 h to 3 h and the aeration time in the SBR cycle varied from 2 to 5, and then to 9 h. The results indicated that the average percentage removal for the three runs for COD, BOD and TSS was 94%, 97% and 98% respectively. Complete nitrification of ammonia was achieved after 5 h aeration in the SBR. The water quality of the treated wastewater resulted from the integrated system at different operating conditions complied with the local standards regulating wastewater discharge into agriculture drains. The main advantage of the proposed treatment system is the minimization of investment and operational costs as compared to the use of the SBR systems alone. The implementation of the anaerobic pretreatment leads to reduction of the plant area, sludge production and oxygen requirement 40%, 58%and 62% respectively. Keywords: SBR; UASB; Domestic wastewater; Reuse

1. Introduction Wastewater recycling and reuse is an emerging alternative to obtain additional water re- sources. The reclaimed water application will usu- ally govern the wastewater treatment needed to protect public health and environment and the
*Corresponding author.

degree of reliability required to treatment processes and operation. Anaerobic treatment methods are becoming in- creasingly popular for the treatment of various wastewaters. The possibility of using upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor for sew- age treatment is an attractive alternative especially for developing countries where there is a need for

0011-9164/09/$ See front matter 2009 Published by Elsevier B.V. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2008.05\.011


A. Moawad et al. / Desalination 242 (2009) 325335

a low cost reliable method for wastewater treatment [1]. In the UASB system all the benefits of anaero- bic systems over aerobic systems are retained, e.g., energy production, low excess sludge production, low volume requirement. Among the high rate anaerobic reactors, the UASB process has gained popularity in recent years with over 200 installa- tions worldwide [24]. The feasibility of sewage treatment by an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor was studied by Uemura and Harada [5] at a fixed hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 4.7 h, and at temperatures in the range of 2513C, for six months. The average total COD removal and solid COD removal achieved were 70% and 80%, re- spectively. Total COD removal rate depends on the influent strength, especially solid COD con- centration, rather than operational temperature. Particulate organic matter in the influent was ef- fectively removed by entrapment in the sludge bed. The hydrolysis rate of the entrapped organ- ics was significantly affected by temperature, that is, 58% of the entrapped particulate organics was liquefied at 25C, decreasing to 33% at 13C. The methanogenic activity of the retained sludge de- creased eventually to 410% of the seed granular sludge which had been formed on carbohydrate wastewater [5]. A sequencing batch reactor (SBR) can be used as a post-treatment step for anaerobically treated effluents. It consists of a batch reactor that oper- ates under a series of periods which constitutes a cycle. The cycle generally consists of fill, react, settle, decant, and idle periods. The use of these periods allows a single reactor to act as a train of reactors and a clarifier. By manipulating these periods within a single cycle, an SBR can accom- plish most of what a continuous flow plant can accomplish with several reactors, each operating under different conditions [5]. The SBR process is a variant of the activated sludge process. It uses the fill and draw principle in which unit processes occur sequentially on a

cyclic basis. The SBR process eliminates the need for primary and secondary clarifiers [5]. Arora et al. [6] note many of the advantages of using an SBR. First, since an SBR is a batch process, the effluent can be held in the reactor until it is treated if there is somewhere for the influent to be stored. This can minimize the dete- rioration of effluent quality sometimes associated with influent spikes. Also, biomass will not be washed out of an SBR because of flow surges. In addition, simplification of SBRs compared to flow-through activated sludge systems negates the need for return activated sludge to be pumped from the clarifier. Another advantage over conventional systems is that settling occurs when there is no inflow or outflow. Therefore, short- circuiting of the clarifier cannot occur. In addition, the nature of an SBR leaves a lot of room for changes to the system based solely on operation and does not require construction. Another example of the flexibility of SBR treatment relates to the effect of temperature. Fernandes et al. [7] demonstrated how temperature affected SBRs treating screened swine-manure. They showed that the temperature of the wastewater could play a major role in the effi- ciency of treatment. Low temperatures decreased the efficiency of the process. By adjusting cycle times, seasonal temperature effects could be compensated for without los- ing efficiency. Creating a reactor that can nitrify, denitrify, oxidize substrate, and clarify in one ves- sel saves space and cost and may make wastewa- ter treatment feasible for smaller farms that would have difficulty dealing with a multi-unit treatment train [8,9]. The literature results indicated that the anaero- bic/aerobic system was superior to other systems because it required less reactor volume. The sys- tem eliminated the need for a clarifier and reduced the sludge handling requirements. The aerobic SBR following anaerobic pretreatment maintained effluent suspended solids concentrations less than 80 mg/L while the aerobic SBR treating the raw

leachate generated effluent suspended solids concentrations ranging from 150 to 350 mg/L [10,11]. It was, therefore, the purpose of the present study to assess the capability of an integrated system consisting of a UASB reactor followed by SBR to produce wastewater suitable for irrigation. 2. Materials and methods 2.1. Experimental setup Three integrated treatment schemes were designed, manufactured and operated. The treatment train consists of a UASB followed by an equal- ization tank (ET), and then an SBR as shown in Fig. 1.

The dimensions of the treatment units are shown in Table 1. All ports are made of copper with 1/8 inch opening. SBR has other opening at the bottom for sludge withdrawal. The aeration in the SBR tank was achieved using an air pump (model
Table 1 The dimensions of the treatment system components Unit UASB ET SBR Length* 250 200 250 Width* 150 200 250 Hight* 1250 500 500

*The dimensions in mm

Fig. 1. Schematic process flowcharts of the proposed treatment system.

CALM RC-006-6 Wt) and two air diffusers. All the reactors were made of glass (6 mm thickness) and covered with black plastic sheets to prevent algal growth. The settled wastewater was with- drawn utilizing a submersible pump (RESUN SP850) power 4 Wt, total head 0.70 mm and maximum discharge 350 l/h. The sequencing of the system was controlled by means of two timers to control the aeration system and the decant sys- tem. 2.2. Operating conditions 2.2.1. The first experimental run The first run extended for more than 3 months (100 days), this run included the start up of the system. The UASB was seeded with anaerobic sludge from anaerobic digester at Zeneen wastewater treatment plant (TSS 30.48 gm/l, VSS 18.75 gm/l). The aerobic sludge was seeded to the SBR (10 l) from the returned sludge at Zeneen wastewater treatment plant (TSS 43.36 gm/l, VSS 42.97 gm/l). Tables 2 and 3 present the first run operating conditions for UASB and SBR respectively.

2.2.2. The second experimental run This run extended for about 2 months. Tables 2 and 3 show the second run operating conditions for the UASB and SBR, respectively. 2.2.3. The third experimental run This run extended for about 1 month. The op- erating conditions for the UASB of the third run were kept the same as that of the second run while increasing the aeration time in the SBR. 2.3. Sampling and analytical methods The performance of the treatment schemes was evaluated by monitoring the quality of the raw wastewater and effluents of each treatment unit. The physico-chemical analysis covered: pH, tem- perature, ammonia-nitrogen (NH3-N), nitrite-nitrogen (NO -N), nitrate-nitrogen (NO -N), total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), total phosphorus (TP), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). Bacteriological analy- sis covers fecal coliform (FC) density. All the analyses were carried out according to standard methods [12].
2 3

Table 2 Operating conditions for the UASB reactor through the study Experimental run First Second Third HRT (h) 4 3 3 Upflow velocity (m/h) 0.31 0.426 0.426 OLR range 3 (kg COD/m /d) 5.281.33 5.051.88 5.051.88 OLR avg. 3 (kg COD/m /d) 2.33 2.93 2.93

Table 3 Operating conditions for the SBR through the study Experimental run First Second Third Cycle (h) 6 8 12 Filling (h) 2.50 1.75 1.75 Aeration (h) 2 5 9 Settling (h) 1.25 1.0 1.0 Decant (h) 0.25 0.25 0.25

3. Results and discussion 3.1. Raw sewage characteristics Fig. 2 shows the average concentrations of COD, BOD, TSS, TKN, ammonia and TP throughout the study period. Concentrations of COD, BOD and TSS were ranged from 240 to 762, 120 to 490 and 100 to 370 mg/l, respectively. The pH values were within the neutral value (6.7 7.12). 3.2. First experimental run 3.2.1. Performance of UASB reactor Water quality was continuously monitored dur- ing the experiment. Residual COD and BOD in the UASB reactor effluent ranged from 130 to 350 mgO2/l and 70 to 180 mgO2/l with average values of 227.3 and 122.6 mg O2/l, respectively. Mean values of COD and BOD removal during this run were 57 and 64%, respectively. Average percentage removal value of TSS was 64%. Re- sidual TSS ranged from 45 to 115 with an aver- age value of 73 mg/l. Variations of COD, BOD and TSS levels of raw wastewater and the UASB reactor effluent and removal percentage are shown in Fig. 3.

3.2.2. Performance of SBR Fig. 3 shows the average concentrations as well as the average percentage removal of COD, BOD and TSS of the UASB and SBR effluents. In this run the COD and BOD levels ranged from 17 to 57 and 4 to 13 mgO2 /l. On the other hand, the level of TSS ranged from 3 to 15 mg/l. The removal efficiencies of the treatment system for COD, BOD and TSS were 84.2, 92.5 and 85.7%, respectively. It is clear from Fig. 4 that the TN (TKN) was 39.3 mg/l (neglecting nitrites and nitrates in the UASB effluent) was reduced to 22.1 mg/l in the SBR effluent. This indicates that nitrification took place in the SBR unit, the average recorded lev- els of nitrates and nitrites in the SBR effluent were 5.8 and 2.6 mg/l, respectively. According to the mass balance, about 9.8 mg/l nitrogen was volatilized by denitrification. The average reduction in the TP was 5.5%. The corresponding concentration of TP in the SBR effluent was 1.2 mg/l. 3.3. Second experimental run 3.3.1. Performance of UASB reactor The HRT was reduced from 4 to 3 h. Fig. 5 shows the average concentrations of COD, BOD





100 log mg/l

51.3 24.4

10 3.4


Fig. 2. Characteristics of raw sewage throughout the study.


A. Moawad et al. / Desalination 242 (2009) 325335

800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0


341.0 227.3 122.6 33.4 84.2 7.5 COD %R Raw (mg/l) UASB eff. (mg/l) SBR eff. (mg/l) BOD %R Raw (mg/l) 92.5 225.6 73.2 85.7 7.9 SBR eff. (mg/l) TSS %R

Raw (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l)

SBR eff. (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l)




Fig. 3. Variations of COD, BOD and TSS in raw sewage and different treatment units.

60 50 40 30 20 10 0

43.6 39.3 22.1 23.6 25.3 9.5




2.6 UASB effl (mg/l). TP

1.2 SBR effl. (mg/l)


Raw (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l) TKN

SBR eff. (mg/l)

Raw (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l) Ammonia

SBR Nitrates Nitrites eff. (mg/l) Oxidized nitrogen forms

Raw (mg/l)


Fig. 4. Variations of TP, TKN, ammonia and oxidized nitrogen forms.

and TSS in the raw sewage as well as the UASB effluent. The COD and BOD concentrations were reduced from 388.5 to 169.5 mgO2/l and from 147.5 to 75.3 mgO2/l, respectively. The average percentage removal of COD and BOD was 54 and 56, respectively. TSS average concentrations of raw sewage and UASB effluent were 176.8 and 89.2, respectively, with an average removal efficiency of 49.6%.

3.3.2. Performance of SBR Fig. 5 shows the performance of the SBR sys- tem. The levels of COD and BOD were reduced from 169.5 to 22.7 and from 63.3 to 2 6.2 mgO /l, with an average percentage removal of 86 and 90.3, respectively. TSS removal was found to be as high as 95.5%. The corresponding TSS level was 3.2 mg/l.

A. Moawad et al. / Desalination 242 (2009) 325335


600 500 400 300 200 100 0 Raw (mg/l) UASB eff. (mg/l) SBR eff. (mg/l) COD %R Raw (mg/l) UASB eff. (mg/l) SBR eff. (mg/l) BOD %R Raw (mg/l) UASB eff. (mg/l) SBR eff. (mg/l) TSS %R 22.7 86.0 169.5 147.5 63.0 6.2 90.3 176.8 89.2 3.2 95.5 388.5




Fig. 5. Variations of COD, BOD and TSS in raw sewage and treated effluents.

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

51.3 49.5

19.2 19.5 19.6 2.0 7.3 0.2 2.8 2.2 UASB effl. (mg/l) TP

1.1 SBR effl. (mg/l) TP %R

Raw (mg/l)

UASB effl. (mg/l) TKN

SBR effl. (mg/l)

Raw (mg/l)

UASB effl. (mg/l) Ammonia

SBR Nitrates Nitrites effl. (mg/l) (mg/l) (mg/l) Oxidized nitrogen forms

Raw (mg/l)

Fig. 6. Variations of TP, TKN, ammonia and oxidized nitrogen forms.

Fig. 6 predicts the performance of the SBR reactor for the removal of TKN, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and TP. Nitrification denitrification rates were increased in this experimental run. The total nitrogen in the influent stream for the SBR reac- tor (UASB effluent) was 49.5 mg/l while, the sum of different nitrogen form was 26.7 mg/l. There were about 22.8 mg/l nitrogen denitrified con- verted to nitrogen gas (mostly). The average re-

duction of TP was 48.4%. The corresponding concentration of TP was 1.1 mg/l. 3.4. Third experimental run 3.4.1. Performance of the UASB reactor Fig. 7 shows the performance of the UASB reactor. The COD and BOD removal was 50.8 and 53.8 with residual values of 221.3 and

600 500 400 300 200 100 0


212.3 89.0

171.6 99.4 3.7 COD %R Raw (mg/l) UASB eff. (mg/l) SBR eff. (mg/l) BOD %R 21.9 95.9

175.1 70.0 3.8 Raw (mg/l) UASB eff. (mg/l) SBR eff. (mg/l) TSS %R 93.9

Raw (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l)

SBR eff. (mg/l)




Fig. 7. Variation of COD, BOD and TSS in raw sewage and treated effluents.

88.6 mgO2/l, respectively. The average residual concentration of TSS was 70 mg/l with a corresponding removal of 57%. 3.4.2. Performance of SBR COD, BOD and TSS levels reduced greatly in the effluent of the SBR. The residual average con- centrations of COD, BOD and TSS were 21.9, 3.7 and 3.8 with corresponding removal values of 89, 95.9 and 93.9%, respectively. In this experimental run, the SBR efficiently removes nitrogenous compounds. Ammonia and nitrites were not detected during this run. TP was reduced by 48.4% with average concentration of 1.5 mg/l (Fig. 8). The nitrite level was found to be below detection limit in this run. These results were found to be in a good agreement with those achieved by Changyong et al. [13]. Nitrification denitrification via nitrite was established as the dominating nitrogen removal pathway [13]. 3.5. The efficiency of the combined UASB and SBR at different experimental runs As shown in Fig. 9, the concentration of COD and BOD in raw sewage tends to be decreased from 541 and 341 to 414.3 and 170.5 mgO2/l. This

may be attributed to the elevation of temperature during the summer season (time of the second and third experimental run). During the summer sea- son the consumption of water increases leading to dilution of wastewater. HRT was decreased from 4 to 3 h. Consequently, the performance of the UASB decreased also as indicated by the re- moval of COD and BOD from 57 and 64 to 52.4 and 54.9%, respectively. TSS shows the same pattern of reduction. Results have been reported that 70% COD removal for operation conditions at HRT 8 h [14]. The reduction in COD removal percentage may be due to reduction of HRT from 8 h to 4 h. The aeration time in the SBR was found to be highly affecting the performance. As the aeration time increased from 2, 5 to 9 h, the performance was changed. Fig. 10 shows the removal of nutri- ents (as reflected by oxidized nitrogen form and TP). It is clear from Fig. 10 that the removal of TN (nitrification/denitrification rate) was found to be highly affected by the changes of operating con- ditions. Dosta et al. [15] examined the perfor- mance of SBR (operated with three cycles per day) for biological nitrogen removal (BNR) from a re- ject water K800 900 mg NH4N/l) from a mu-

80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0



48.4 29.6 9.1 0.0 0.0 Nitrites (mg/l)

24.5 12.6


2.9 UASB eff. (mg/l)

1.5 SBR eff. TP %R (mg/l) TP

Raw (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l) TKN

SBR eff. (mg/l)

Raw (mg/l)

UASB eff. (mg/l) Ammonia

SBR eff. Nitrates (mg/l) (mg/l)

Raw (mg/l)

Oxidized nitrogen forms

Fig. 8. Variations of TP, TKN, ammonia and oxidized nitrogen forms.

800 700 600 500 mg/l 400 300 200 100 0 Raw UASB ef f . COD COD %R Raw UASB ef f . BOD 227 190.9 57 52.4 170.5 123 76.0 541 414.3 341

First run

Second and Third run

226 175.2 64 54.9 73 79.6 64 53.4



UASB ef f . TSS


Fig. 9. Performance of UASB at different operating conditions.

nicipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Nitrogen was completely removed from the rejected effluent [15]. The average FC counts in the final effluent of the treatment (SBR) were 3.5103, 2.55103 and 7.5102 MPN/100ml for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd runs, respectively. The value of FC count of the third run was found to be fulfilling the requirement of unrestricted irrigation according to WHO, US- EPA/USAID [17,18].

4. Conclusions The use of an SBR as a post treatment step after a UASB reactor is a promising technology for wastewater reclamation and reuse in arid and semi-arid areas. The water quality of the treated wastewater at different operating conditions complies with standards regulating wastewater discharge into agriculture drains.

70 60 50 40 mg/l 30 20 10 0 UASB ef f . SBR ef f . TP %R UASB ef f . SBR ef f . TN 5.5 2.6 2.2 2.9 1.2 1.1 1.5

First run

Secon run

Third run
48.4 48.4 49.5




39.3 30.5

26.7 21.7 22.4


Fig. 10. The concentrations of TP and TN in the UASB and SBR effluents and there removal efficiencies.

6.0E+03 5.0E+03 MPN/100 ml 4.0E+03 3.0E+03 2.0E+03 1.0E+03 0.0E+00 First run Second run Third run

Fig. 11. FC counts in the SBR effluent at different experimental conditions.

TN removal depends on the aeration time in (SBR). Complete nitrification of ammonia was obtained after 5 h. The average percentage removal of phosphorus reached 65%, and increasing the aeration time in SBR to 9 h did not cause a significant improvement for the removal of total phosphorus.

Increasing the HRT in the SBR from 2 to 9 h did not cause a significant improvement in COD, BOD, and TSS removal while the geometric count of FC was reduced to 7.5102 MPN/100ml in the effluent of the 3rd run (HRT 9 h).

Acknowledgment The authors are grateful to Prof. Dr. F. El- Gohary and Prof. Dr. M. Saleh for their continu- ous help and support. References
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