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A SURVEY OF WASTEWATER TREATMENT PRACTICES IN THE BROILER


INDUSTRY

Brian Kiepper, The University of Georgia, Engineering Outreach Program,
Driftmier Engineering Center, Athens, Georgia 30602

Presented at the 2001 WEF Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

ABSTRACT

Traditionally, poultry processing operations have been large users of potable water, and
consequently, large generators of wastewater. A typical poultry slaughter facility will generate
5-10 gallons of wastewater per bird processed, containing on average, >2,000 mg/L of
biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), >4,000 mg/L of total suspended solids (TSS), and >3,000
mg/L of fats, oil and grease (FOG). With many plants processing 150,000 to 200,000 birds per
day, the generation of 1.0 to 2.0 million gallons per day of high strength wastewater is typical.
Most of the soluble and particulate organic material in the wastewater must be removed prior to
discharge from the plant in order to achieve compliance with established environmental
regulations. Depending on the degree of treatment required poultry processors have the option
of utilizing physical, chemical and/or biological treatment systems. Each system type possesses
unique treatment advantages and operational difficulties.

To assist the poultry processing industry in determining the future focus of scientific and
engineering research related to the treatment of wastewater, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association
(USPOULTRY) sponsored an independent University of Georgia Engineering Outreach Program
survey aimed at identifying the current practices and experiences of the industry in the area of
wastewater treatment. The survey was distributed nationwide. The completed surveys were
complied and results are summarized in this paper. The survey goals were to determine the
extent to which wastewater treatment processes are used by the industry, the context in which
they are used, problems commonly encountered in their operation, and solutions that have been
attempted to control such problems.

Twenty-three poultry processing facilities, located in 11 states, returned completed surveys.
Surveys were received from slaughter, further processing and rendering plants. Details on plant
processing types, production levels, potable water use, wastewater generation and laboratory
analytical testing are provided. Thirteen (57%) of the facilities reported wastewater treatment
system operational problems. Of the operational problems reported, the majority involved the
inadequate separation of dissolved air flotation (DAF) skimmings and activated sludge bulking.
Other problems reported and discussed include poor phosphorus removal and high effluent BOD,
total kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) and ammonia nitrogen (AN) levels.


KEYWORDS

Poultry Processing, Wastewater, Dissolved Air Flotation, Biological Treatment


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INTRODUCTION

As is typical of many food-processing operations, poultry processing is characterized by
relatively high usage of water, most of it for non-consumptive purposes (Kroyer, 1991).
Typically, poultry slaughter operations produce 5 - 10 gallons of wastewater per bird processed,
with concentrations exceeding 2,000 mg/L of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), 4,000 mg/L
of total suspended solids (TSS), and 3,000 mg/L of fats, oil and grease (FOG) (Council for
Agricultural Science and Technology, 1995). On June 1, 2001, the National Agricultural
Statistics Service (NASS) released the U.S. Poultry Slaughter data for April 2001. The NASS
reported that 668,827,000 birds were slaughtered during the one-month period (NASS, 2001).
Projected figures based on this data reveal that U.S. poultry processing plants will slaughter over
eight billion birds in 2001. Using the typical range of wastewater generated per bird, yearly total
wastewater generation by U.S. poultry slaughter plants alone is between 40 and 80 billion
gallons annually.

Once generated, poultry processors are faced with treating wastewater for ultimate discharge
from the plant. Wastewater effluent options include direct and indirect discharge. Direct
discharge is defined as the release of wastewater directly into a surface water or land application
system. On the other hand, indirect discharge relates to wastewater from the poultry processor
that flows to a municipal wastewater treatment facility for further treatment prior to discharge to
a surface water or land application system. In general, indirect discharges require less treatment
than direct discharges due to further treatment by a municipal wastewater treatment plant.
Because of this second treatment step, indirect dischargers are often referred to as pretreatment
facilities.

In most cases, regardless of a direct or indirect discharge, the majority of the soluble and
particulate organic material in poultry processing wastewater must be removed prior to discharge
from the plant in order to achieve compliance with established local, state and/or federal
environmental regulations. Depending on the degree of treatment required poultry processors
have the option of utilizing physical, chemical and/or biological treatment systems. Each system
type possesses unique treatment advantages and operational difficulties.

Physical Treatment

Physical treatment, in the form of screening, serves a dual purpose in a poultry processing
wastewater stream. First, screening recovers offal materials (feathers, viscera, meat particles)
that are valuable by-products for the poultry rendering industry. Second, screening prepares
wastewater for further treatment by removing the larger solid particles from the waste stream that
might otherwise impede the operation and maintenance of downstream equipment and treatment
processes. Screening is often the first, simplest and most inexpensive form of treatment.

Screens come in various forms (bar, shaker, rotary), and are classified as coarse, which has open
spaces greater than 6.0 mm (>0.25 in.), fine, with spaces 1.5 mm to 6.0 mm (0.059 in. 0.25 in.),
very fine, that has gap spaces between 0.2 mm 1.5 mm (0.008 in. 0.059 in.) and
microscreens, with minute gaps of 1.0 m 0.3 mm (3.9 x 10
-8
in. 1.2 x 10
-2
in.) (Water
Environment Federation, 1998). Screens can be utilized as stand alone units or in series, which

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allows coarser screens to remove larger particles before further screening by finer mesh units.
Screens must be sized properly to handle both the hydraulic flow and particle size of the waste
stream to prevent blanking, which is defined as the overload of a screen that results in the
coating over of the screen mesh preventing the pass-through of water.

Bar screens can be divided into three categories. Trash screens, with openings of 38 mm 150
mm (1.5 in. 6 in.) have limited applications in poultry processing facilities. Due to the
relativity large openings in trash screens, they are limited to removing only the largest solids
within a waste stream. Manually-Cleaned screens have gaps between 30 mm 50 mm (1.0 in.
2.0 in.) and Mechanically-Cleaned screens have openings ranging from 6 mm 38 mm (0.25 in.
1.5 in.) (Water Environment Federation, 1998). Shaker screens utilize a flat perforated
platform that is vibrated at a high speed, allowing solids to be retained on the platform while
water flows by gravity through the perforated plate.

The most popular form of screens utilized by the poultry processing industry are rotary types.
Rotary or drum screens come in two basic forms: internally-fed and externally-fed. In internally-
fed rotary screens, wastewater and associated solids are fed inside the drum. Water drains
outside the drum while the solids are retained inside. On externally-fed units, wastewater and
solids flow over the outside of the drum. The water portion of the stream passes through the
drum, while the solids rotate on the outside of the drum and are scraped off on the opposite side
of the entry point. Common problems associated with screening include mechanical failures and
blanking due either to the overloading of the screen or to under sizing of screen gaps.

Chemical Treatment

Although there are a variety of chemical wastewater treatment processes available for use in the
poultry processing industry, by far the most popular form utilized is dissolved air flotation
(DAF). Best described as a physical/chemical treatment, DAF refers to the process of water-
solid separation by the introduction of fine gas (usually air) bubbles to the wastewater stream.
The microbubbles attach to the solid particles in wastewater causing a solid-gas matrix. The
resulting increased buoyancy of the matrix causes it to rise to the surface of the water where it
can be collected by mechanical skimming. The use of DAF technology has seen widespread
application since the mid-1960s.

The most important aspect of an effectively operating DAF unit is bubble size (Cassell et al.,
1975). DAF units produce bubbles that are microscopic in size. Typical DAF bubble size
distribution is in the range of 10 m 100 m, which is in the same size diameter range as
human hair. Gas bubbles released from a pressurized liquid are not distinguishable to the naked
eye. Instead, DAF bubbles give wastewater a milky white (Water Environment Federation,
1998). In addition to the introduction of air, and to increase removal efficiencies, most DAF
systems also utilize a variety of flocculent chemicals that aid in the coagulation of the solid
materials in the waste stream. Although the skimmed material from DAF units is not as high a
quality as screened offal and thus has a reduced value, it is still a viable by-product and is
recovered and utilized by the poultry rendering industry. The most common problems associated
with operating DAF units are mechanical failures and poor solids separation.


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Biological Treatment

Biological treatment or biotreatment is defined as the treatment of wastewater by
microorganisms in a controlled environment. The microorganisms convert biodegradable,
organic particles and some inorganic materials in wastewater into a more stable cellular mass and
other by-products that are later removed from the remaining water fraction by physical means,
such as settling in clarifiers. Biotreatment methods represent a potentially cost effective
approach, requiring little or no chemical inputs, and greater then 90% removal efficiencies of
pollutants in poultry processing wastewaters are readily attainable.

Typical biotreatment systems include activated sludge systems, lagoons, trickling filters, and
septic tanks (Nemerov and Dasgupta, 1991). However, based on information provided by
industry experts, biotreatment systems consisting of an anaerobic lagoon followed by an
activated sludge system are used by an estimated 25% of U.S. poultry processing plants, and are
probably the most common wastewater biotreatment process configuration in the industry
(Starkey, 2000). Consequently, the focus of discussion in alternative biotreatment methods in
poultry processing operations is principally on anaerobic digestion and activated sludge
treatment.
Anaerobic digestion results in the conversion of organic matter into methane and carbon dioxide
via a series of interrelated microbial metabolisms under septic (no free oxygen present)
conditions. Digestion of organic material under these conditions results in the production of a
gaseous by-product. This resulting gas mixture, mostly methane and carbon dioxide, with
smaller amounts of hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia, is referred to as biogas.
Given the complex interactions between the various microorganism populations, a number of
factors can upset the anaerobic digestion process. Despite potential process instabilities arising
from competing biochemical activities, anaerobic digestion has an important advantage over
aerobic processes in that power requirements are comparatively minimal since aeration is not
necessary for treatment to proceed. However, the low pollutant levels required for the final
effluent are typically not achievable anaerobically, hence further treatment under aerobic
conditions is usually necessary.
Activated sludge, including its many variations, is probably the most widely used aerobic
wastewater treatment process within the poultry processing industry. An activated sludge system
consists of two main process units: the aeration basin and the clarifier. The aeration basin
provides an environment for the breakdown of soluble and particulate pollutants by
microorganisms known collectively as activated sludge. The clarifier provides a quiescent
environment that allows the activated sludge solids to separate by flocculation and gravity
sedimentation from the treated wastewater.
Solids separation problems in activated sludge systems result in the loss of microbial biomass
from the treatment process and eventually lead to process failure. Microbial solids not separated
in the clarifier become particulate organic matter carried in the effluent, possibly resulting in
non-compliance with treatment objectives for TSS and BOD. Activated sludge system
operation, therefore, requires the maintenance of a flocculent, well-settling sludge.

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A number of different solids separation problems have been observed in activated sludge
systems, including: (1) dispersed growth, where the sludge does not flocculate; (2) viscous
bulking, where large amounts of exocellular slime are produced by the microorganisms; (3) pin
floc, where small, compact, relatively weak flocs are formed; (4) filamentous bulking, where
filamentous organisms in the sludge flocs extend into the bulk liquid and interfere with settling
and compaction; (5) blanket rising, where denitrification releases nitrogen gas which floats the
sludge blanket; and (6) foaming/scum formation, caused by non-degradable surfactants or by
specific microorganisms (actinomycetes) in the sludge (Jenkins, 1992; Jenkins et al., 1993).
Solid separation problems in activated sludge systems are rather common and can be difficult to
control. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (1995) specifically lists
filamentous bulking as a problem in activated sludge treatment of poultry processing
wastewaters that must be resolved.

Survey Purpose

To assist the industry in determining the future focus of scientific and engineering research
related to the treatment of poultry processing wastewater, USPOULTRY sponsored an
independent University of Georgia Engineering Outreach Program survey aimed at identifying
the current practices and experiences of the industry in the area of wastewater treatment. It was
determined that the survey should be distributed nationwide and would focus on wastewater
treatment. In addition, the survey would investigate how such treatment relates to the type of
production and overall plant water use. The survey goals related to wastewater treatment were to
determine the extent to which treatment processes are used by the industry, the context in which
they are used, problems commonly encountered in their operation, and solutions that have been
attempted to control such problems.

SURVEY DEVELOPMENT

The University of Georgia Engineering Outreach Program and USPOULTRY prepared a seven-
page survey, with four pages of supporting figures, for distribution nationwide to the poultry
processing industry. The survey was divided into sections on general plant and production
information, potable water use and wastewater treatment operations. General plant information
included the type of poultry processing operations conducted at the facility, days and hours of
operation, number of employees, and shift types. Production information was based on average
daily processing levels and asked for the maximum plant design capacity versus actual
throughput in each processing area. Survey questions on potable water use asked for total daily
plant consumption, percent use by each production/sanitation shift, unit cost and major water
consuming processes or pieces of equipment.

The most extensive information requested in the survey was in the area of wastewater treatment.
General questions included disposal method use for effluent and associated by-products, unit
costs and wastewater operation staffing. Surveyed plants described in detail the unit operations
utilized to treat their wastewater onsite. Specific information was asked for on the characteristics
of the wastewater stream using parameter permit levels versus actual testing results. In addition
to permitted parameters, the survey asked for other process control measures used by facilities to
ensure proper operation. The residuals resulting from the treatment processes were identified by

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source, generation rate and final beneficial reuse method. Finally, plants were ask to categorize
and describe any wastewater treatment operational problems their facility has experienced and
what steps were taken to remedy the problem. Utilizing the membership rolls and professional
contacts provided by USPOULTRY, blank surveys were distributed nationwide to environmental
contact personnel at poultry processing facilities.

SURVEY RESULTS

Twenty-three poultry processing facilities, located in 11 states, returned completed surveys.
Figure 1 shows the location distribution of plants returning completed surveys by state. Surveyed
plants were first asked to describe which poultry processing operations are performed at their
facility. For the purposes of the survey, poultry processing operations are divided into four
categories. First processing (1
st
) is defined to include the operations of live bird slaughter, cut-
up, and chill pack. Second processing (2
nd
) is inclusive of the operations of deboning,
marination, instant quick frozen (IQF), portion control and mechanically separated
chicken/mechanically deboned meat (MSC/MDM). Unit operations included in third processing
(3
rd
) are par-fry, fully-cooked, bar-b-que, breading and breading/cook. Finally, rendering, either
on-site at a processing facility or as a stand-alone plant, is designated separately from other unit
operations. The unit operations performed at the surveyed plants are summarized in Table 1.


Figure 1 Nationwide Distribution of Surveyed Plants
























TX
1
PA-1
GA-3
NC- 5
MS-1 LA-1
MO
1
AR
3
DE-3
MD-2
VA-2

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In order of magnitude, the unit operations performed at the surveyed plants were reported as
slaughter (83%), cut-up (74%), debone (70%), marination (39%), chill pack (35%), MSC/MDM
(22%), portion control (17%), fully-cooked (13%), IQF and breading/cooking (9%). Only one of
the surveyed plants reported par-frying and breading. No plants reported bar-b-que as a unit
operation.

Table 1 Unit Operations of 23 Surveyed Poultry Processing Plants

Unit Operation Number of Plants
Performing Unit
Operation

Percentage of
Plants Performing
Unit Operation
1
st
Processing:
Slaughter 19 83
Cut-up 17 74
Chill pack 8 35
2
nd
Processing:
Debone 16 70
Marination 9 39
MSC/MDM 5 22
Portion Control 4 17
IQF 2 9
3
rd
Processing:
Fully-cooked 3 13
Breading/cook 2 9
Par-fry 1 4
Breading 1 4
Bar-b-que 0 0
Rendering 5 22


First Processing

Nineteen of the twenty-three surveyed plants encompass slaughtering operations. Of those
nineteen slaughtering facilities, thirteen (68%) perform both 1
st
and 2
nd
processing operations.
Only two plants (11%) are solely 1
st
operation facilities, and four plants (21%) have 1
st
, 2
nd
and
rendering operations on-site. Details on plant production levels, processing yields and
operational capacities are shown in Table 2. This data shows that the surveyed plants slaughter
an average of 169,390 birds or 884,115 live weight pounds of poultry a day, for an average
weight per bird of 5.3 pounds. The average output weight of the plants was calculated at
670,964 pounds, for an average yield of 76%. The following assumptions were made in
calculating estimated values for unreported data in surveys: average weight of live bird = 5.0
pounds, percent yield from live weight slaughter = 75%.



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Table 2 Detail of 1
st
Processing Plants: Average Daily Operations

Plant
Number
No. of
Birds
Processed
Live
Weight
(lbs.)
Processed
Avg.
Weight
per Bird
Weight
(lbs)
Output
Percent
(%)
Yield
Percent (%)
Operational
Capacity
1 160,000 800,000 5.0 600,000 75 nr
2 299,331 1,182,358 4.0 804,003 68 91
3 127,529 990,458 7.8 752,748 76 81
4 134,000 660,000 4.9 552,600 84 100
5 192,000 960,000 5.0 729,600 76 nr
6 172,800 864,000 5.0 648,000 75 nr
7 55,000 275,000 5.0 172,000 63 nr
8 64,400 338,100 5.3 256,956 76 100
9 170,000 1,119,000 6.6 873,000 78 98
10 197,400 1,056,090 5.4 844,872 80 50
11 170,632 853,159 5.0 658,023 77 nr
12 85,316 426,579 5.0 329,011 77 nr
13 260,000 1,114,987 4.4 836,240 75 99
14 265,000 1,457,600 5.5 1,034,000 71 88
15 265,000 1,815,250 6.9 1,422,690 78 99
16 286,000 1,315,600 4.6 1,018,405 77 nr
17 41,000 205,000 5.0 153,750 75 76
18 126,000 630,000 5.0 481,761 76 50
19 147,000 735,000 5.0 580,650 79 nr

Low 41,000 205,000 4.0 153,750 63 50
High 299,331 1,815,250 7.8 1,422,690 84 100
Average 169,390 884,115 5.3 670,964 76 85
nr not reported

Fourteen (74%) of the nineteen first processing plants completing surveys utilize a five day a
week, 24-hour work schedule. All of these plants operate two eight-hour production shifts
followed by a single sanitation shift. Five plants (26%) reported running only two shifts, one
production and one sanitation, over a five-day work week. One plant operates a two-
production/one-sanitation shift operation in a four-day workweek. Finally, three (15%) of the
nineteen plants reported that they start each workweek off with a separate sanitation shift prior to
production startup. The average number of production employees utilized by the surveyed plants
is 646, while the average total plant employees were calculated at 758. The lowest number of
production and total employees reported is 116 and 152, while the highest employee numbers are
listed at 1400 and 1600, respectfully.

Potable water use at each facility is reported in Table 3, along with the calculated water use per
bird processed. Water use at the plants averages 1.013 million gallons per day (MGD). The
average gallon per bird processed range between 4.5 and 8.8, with an average of 6.2.


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Table 3 - Detail of 1
st
Processing Plants: Average Daily Water Use

Plant
Number
Number of
Birds
Processed
Water Use
(total
gallons)
Water Use
(gallons
per bird)
1 160,000 1,100,000 6.9
2 299,331 1,400,000 4.7
3 127,529 995,000 7.8
4 134,000 938,000 7.0
5 192,000 900,000 4.7
6 172,800 875,000 5.1
7 55,000 377,000 6.9
8 64,400 424,000 6.6
9 170,000 1,500,000 8.8
10 197,400 987,000 5.0
11 170,632 854,000 5.0
12 85,316 520,000 6.1
13 260,000 1,700,000 6.5
14 265,000 1,200,000 4.5
15 265,000 1,400,000 5.3
16 286,000 2,030,000 7.1
17 41,000 246,000 6.0
18 126,000 1,100,000 8.7
19 147,000 700,000 4.8

Low 41,000 246,000 4.5
High 299,331 2,030,000 8.8
Average 169,390 1,012,947 6.2

Stand Alone Further Processors (3rd Processing)

Three completed surveys were received from 3
rd
or further processing facilities. All three of
the plants produce fully cooked products. Two plants have breading/cooking operations, and one
facility also has breading and par-fry operations. Daily production levels in the plants average
305,000 pounds of product processed by 152 production employees (225 total employees) over a
five-day workweek with two production and one sanitation shift. Water use at the three plants
averages 150,025 gallons per day.

Renderers

One completed survey was received from a facility that only renders poultry processing by-
products. However, four other surveyed plants perform rendering onsite at facilities doing other
operations. Data pertaining to the five operations are expressed in tons and are detailed in Table
4. The one reporting stand-alone rendering plant (plant no. 5 in table 4) operates six days a week
with 75 production and 138 total employees on two production and two sanitation shifts. The
plants average water use is 300,000 gallons per day.

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Table 4 Renderer Production Levels (Tons Per Day)

Plant
No.
Offal

(In)
Feathers

(In)
DAF
Solids
(In)
Hatchery
Waste
(In)
Blood

(In)
Misc.
Meat
(In)
Oil

(Out)
Poultry
Meal
(Out)
Feather
Meal
(Out)
Blood
Meal
(Out)
1 425 108 23 - 44 - 75 103 36 6
2 95 26 9 - 12 - - - - -
3 28 11 - - - 87 - 50 - -
4 30 30 5 1.2 - - 6 15 15 -
5 1125 400 - - - - 213 297 138 -

Wastewater Permitting & Characteristics

All but two of the twenty-three surveyed plants operate their wastewater treatment systems under
a local, state or federal discharge permit. Using the total of twenty-one permitted plants, Table 5
summaries the parameters covered by discharge permits. A total of five parameters are required
testing for at least 50% of the permitted plants. All of the permitted plants have an established
limit for TSS, while over 90% are tested for BOD and pH. Eighty-one percent of plants are
tested for FOG, and 57% must meet limits for AN.

Wastewater Treatment: Processes

In the survey, plants were provided with a table to detail information on the types of wastewater
treatment processes utilized. Wastewater treatment processes are divided into physical,
physical/chemical, biological, finishing, and final disposal. All of the surveyed plants use some
form of treatment on their wastewater. Nine plants (39%) report using a combination of
physical, physical/chemical, and biological treatment systems. The remaining plants use one
system type alone or two in combination for wastewater treatment. The twenty-three surveyed
plants employ a total of 46 state certified wastewater treatment personnel, ranging from zero (at
one facility) to five (at two facilities). Thirty-seven additional personnel are employed to assist
certified staff. Three plants use only certified personnel with no non-certified assistance, while
one plant utilizes only five non-certified staff.

Initial physical treatment, in the form of screens are utilized by eighteen (78%) of the facilities.
By far the most popular form of screens are rotary types. Of the eighteen plants using screening,
eleven (78%) use either internally-fed or externally-fed rotary screens. Two plants use bar
screens and two other plants use a combination of rotary and shaker screens. Physical/chemical
treatment, in the form of DAF technology, is utilized at nineteen (83%) of the surveyed plants.
Plants reported that the solids content of their DAF skimmings range from a low of 11 percent
for materials recovered directly from DAF units, to 47 percent for skimmings further treated with
dewatering technology such as filter belt presses and driers. Volumes of skimmings produced
per day are reported either as pounds or gallons. Daily pounds produced range from 10,000 to
100,000 with an average of 57,000. Plants reporting gallons of DAF skimmings collected ranged
from 3,000 to 23,000 with an average output of 8,100.


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Table 5 Permitted Parameters of Plants by Number and Percentage

Parameter No. of Plants
Permitted

% of Plants
Permitted
Total Suspended Solids 21 100
Biochemical Oxygen Demand 19 90.5
pH 19 90.5
Fat, Oil & Grease 17 81
Ammonia Nitrogen 12 57
Phosphorus 7 33
Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen 5 24
CBOD 3 14
Chemical Oxygen Demand 2 9.5
Nitrate / Nitrite 2 9.5
Total Residual Chlorine 2 9.5
Organic Nitrogen 1 5
Chloride 1 5
Sodium 1 5
Dissolved Oxygen 1 5
Total Nitrogen 1 5
Fecal Coliform 1 5
Enterococcus 1 5

Biological treatment is divided into anaerobic digestion, activated sludge, aerated lagoon and
facultative (non-aerated) lagoon. The most popular form of biological treatment among the
surveyed plants is activated sludge with ten facilities (43%) reporting the use of extended air,
oxidation ditch or biological nutrient removal (BNR) technologies. Overall capacities of
activated sludge systems ranged from 400,000 to 13 million gallons with the average system
capacity of 3.35 million gallons. Aerated lagoons were the second most popular type of
biotreatment with eight (35%) of plants reporting their use. Ponds ranged in size from 1.2 to 7.0
acres and capacities from 975,000 to 14 million gallons. Three plants (13%) report the use of
anaerobic digestion, while three plants use facultative lagoon as part of their biotreament system.
Finishing treatment of wastewater is divided into final clarifiers, filtration, polishing ponds and
disinfection. Eleven plants (48%) use final clarifiers ranging in capacity from 296,000 to 1.27
million gallons. Only one plant utilizes a combination of rough followed by polishing
filtration, while only two plants have final polishing ponds. Eleven plants (48%) have
disinfection systems associated with their wastewater treatment. Eight plants use chlorine gas,
two use sodium hypochlorite, and one plant uses a UV (ultraviolet light) system for disinfection.
Final disposal of treated wastewater or effluent is divided into two basic categories: direct
discharge (to surface water and/or land application) or indirect discharge (to municipal sewer
system). Thirteen plants (57%) reported themselves as direct discharges. Eight of the thirteen
plants use land application systems, three facilities use a combination of land application and
surface water discharge, while two plants release all of their treated effluent to a surface water.
Ten (43%) of the facilities pretreat their waste streams prior to discharge to a municipal sewer
system for further treatment.

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Wastewater Treatment: Process Control Measures

Surveyed plants were asked to list the operating parameters that are regularly monitored and/or
controlled to ensure proper wastewater treatment plant operation. Along with permitted
parameters, these tests are used to diagnose operational problems. A number of typical process
control measures were listed for surveyed plants and blanks provided for additional entries. For
each parameter, plants were requested to note sample point and frequency of testing, target
testing level, and if monitoring and/or control of parameter is automated. A prioritized summary
of plant responses showing control measures used at a minimum of two facilities is presented in
Table 6.


Table 6 Process Control Measures: Number and Percentage of Plants

Parameter
*
Sample
Point
Frequency
#
No. of
Plants
% of
Plants
Target Levels
(Range)
No. of
Auto.
Monitoring
No. of
Auto.
Control

DO Aeration C,H,D,W 12 52 1.0 6.0 mg/L 4 4
pH Aeration C,H,D,W 12 52 6.0 9.0 S.U. 4 4
pH DAF C,H,D,W 11 48 4.2 7.4 S.U. 8 7
Chlorine Effluent H,D 10 43 <1.0 2.5 mg/L 1 0
MLSS Aeration D 9 39 2K 5K mg/L 1 0
AN Clarifier D,W 9 39 <1.0 28 mg/L 1 0
COD DAF Eff D,W,M 7 30 160 800 mg/L 0 0
SVI Clarifier D,W 6 26 80 150 ??? 0 0
Nitrate Clarifier D,W 5 22 <5 - <75 mg/L 0 0
Alkalinity Clarifier D,M 4 17 50 - >350 mg/L 0 0
pH Digester W 3 13 7.0 7.2 S.U. 0 0
* DO Dissolved Oxygen, MLSS Mixed Liquor Suspended Solids, AH Ammonia Nitrogen, COD Chemical
Oxygen Demand, SVI Sludge Volume Index
# C Continuous, H Hourly, D Daily, W- Weekly, M - Monthly


Wastewater Treatment: Residuals

The survey asked each respondent to list the residuals created by the operation of their
wastewater treatment systems. Categories provided include screenings, DAF skimmings and
waste activated sludge. Of the fifteen plants reporting the recovery of screened materials,
fourteen (93%) pass the by-product along to a rendering operation. One plant reports that their
screenings are land applied. The rendering industry also handles the vast majority of DAF
skimmings, thirteen (72%) of eighteen reporting facilities, with the remaining five plants using
land application systems. Finally, plants utilizing aeration systems were asked about their waste
activated sludge. Of the nine reporting plants, six use land application and three use anaerobic
digestion to handle the by-product.

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WASTEWATER TREATMENT OPERATIONAL PROBLEMS

Of the twenty-three plants returning completed surveys, thirteen (57%) reported fifteen specific
wastewater treatment operational problems. The problems are summarized in order of number of
incidents in Table 8. The poor separation of DAF solids in physical/chemical treatment systems
is the problem experienced the most by the surveyed plants. Of the five plants reporting
problems with DAF solids, only two offered a suspected cause. One plant traced the problem to
low pH in the potable water supply, while the other plant had an accidental spill of blood to the
waste stream. Three of the five plants addressed the problem with chemical addition, one plant
complete maintenance on their system, while one addressed the problem of low pH with the
municipal water supplier. Activated sludge bulking was the second most experienced
operational problem of the surveyed plants. Three plants reported the problem, with suspected
causes listed as filamentous and spring turnover. Remedies included chlorinating and increasing
the return activated sludge (RAS) flow, and increasing aeration levels.

Table 8 Wastewater Treatment Operational Problems

Problem

Suspected Cause Remedy




Poor DAF Solids Separation
1. Potable water supply pH
too low (<7.0 S.U.)
2. nr
3. nr

4. Accidental blood dump

5. nr
1. Formal request to public water
supplier to maintain pH of 7.2 S.U.
2. Use of new GRAS polymers
3. Check and blow out air supply
nozzles
4. Slow DAF feed, increase floc
agent
5. Jar tests conducted, new
polymer in use


Activated Sludge Bulking
1. Filamentous
2. nr

3. Spring turnover
1. Chlorinate RAS
2. Increase RAS, maintain
minimum DO in oxidation ditch
3. Increase aeration & apply
coagulant

Poor Phosphorus Removal
1. nr

2. No phosphorus removal
designed in present system
1. Change from Alum to liquid
Sodium Aluminate
2. Evaluating new technology
High Effluent BOD Levels 1. Sugars from marinades
and glazes
2. nr
1. Increase chemical dosage and
retention times
2. Increase aeration/DO levels
High Effluent AN Levels nr Reduced system flow to increase
detention times
High Effluent TKN Levels nr Evaluating alternative treatment
options
Cloudy Effluent Overfeeding Hydroxide
Magnesium
Reduce feed to proper level

14

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Jenkins D., Richard M.G. and Daigger G.T. (1993). Manual on the Causes and Control of
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