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ACTIVATEDSLUDGE:PART2OF3
PARTS
"TheOperationoftheProcess"
Theactivatedsludgeprocessisregardedbymostoperatorstobethemostdifficultofallofthe
wastewaterbiologicalsecondarytreatmentprocesses.Butiftheprocesshasbeenproperly
designed,andahasanadequatelaboratorysupport,properlytrainedoperatorsrarelyhave
majorproblemswiththeprocess.
Therearesomeexcellenttextscoveringactivatedsludge,suchasthechaptersinWater
EnvironmentsMOP11,andNo.OM9,"ActivatedSludge".Iwillcertainlynottrytowritesuch
volumes,asthesetwotexts,ofmypersonalexperiencesforthiscolumn!Rather,itismydesire
toconcentrateonsomeoperationalitemswhicharenotgenerallydiscussedalotatthistime:
selectors,primarydesignandoperatingcriteriathatareimportanttooperatetheprocesswell,
andoptimizingtheprocessinyourfacility.
Firstsomedefinitions:
Thesolidsretentiontime(SRT)isusuallydefinedasthenumberofpoundsofsolidsunder
aerationdividedbythesumofthenumberofpoundsactivatedsludgewastedaddedtothe
numberofpoundsofsolidslostinthesecondaryeffluent.
Themeancellresidencetime(MCRT)ismostoftendefinedasthenumberofpoundsofsolids
intheaerationbasinaddedtothenumberofpoundsofsolidsinthesecondaryclarifierdivided
bythesumofthenumberofpoundsofactivatedsludgewastedaddedtothenumberof
poundsofsolidslostinthesecondaryclarifiereffluent.Wesamplethesolidsinthesecondary
clarifiersusingsludgejudgestoincreaseaccuracy.Ipersonallyfeelthatthisisthebest
approach.
Selectorsaresmallbasinsinwhichthemixedliquor(mixtureofReturnActivatedSludge[RAS]
andprimaryeffluent)istreated(passedthrough)priortotheactivatedsludgeprocess.The
basinsprovideabout15to30minutesofhydraulicdetentiontime.Theselectorsaredesigned
foraerobic,anaerobic,oranoxicconditions,dependingontheprocessgoal.:
Aerobicselectorsrequire2to3mg/Ldissolvedoxygenconcentrationtoreducethefilamentous
bacteriagrowthpotential
AnaerobicselectorshaveaverylowDOcontent(<0.5mg/LDO)withlowconcentrationsof
nitratesfromthesecondaryclarifier(<5mg/L)toalsoreducefilamentousmicrobes.This
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occursduetothelowdissolvedoxygenconcentrations,andahighconcentrationofa
phosphorusconsumingpopulationofmicrobesthatconsumeamajorityoftheCBODinthe
selectorwhichmakesthefoodunavailabletothefilamentousmicroorganismslaterinthe
aerationbasin(s).
Anoxicselectorsarecreatedwhenarecycledflowoftreatedsecondaryeffluent,containing
highamountsofnitrates,isreturnedtotheselectortomixwiththemixedliquor.Thisselector
isusedtodenitrify(removeaportionofthenitratenitrogenintheeffluent).
(InVacavillewehavecreatedananaerobicselectorinourconventionalactivatedsludge
aerationbasinsbyreducingthequantityofairthatisappliedatthebeginningofthefirst
aerationbasin,therebyloweringthedissolvedoxygenconcentration.Theamountofairisvery
low,onlyenoughtosatisfymixingrequirements.Wethenapplyenoughairtomaintain2to3
mg/LDOthroughouttherestofthebasins.Profiletestshaveshownthereleaseand
subsequentuptakeofphosphorus,aprimarycharacteristicofanaerobicselector.Eightyearsof
personalexperiencewiththisanaerobicselectorinourownplanthasshownthattheselector
allowsforthephosphorusgroupofmicroorganismstoconsumethecarbonaceousbiochemical
oxygendemand(CBOD)intheselector,therebyreducingtheleveloffoodquantityavailable
forfilamentousgrowthandothermicrobeslaterintheprocess.)
Theprimarydesigncriteriaforallactivatedsludgeprocessvariationsinclude:
a.theselectedfood(CBOD)tomicroorganism(F/M)ratioandthecorrespondingsolids
retentiontime(SRT)ormeanscellresidenttime(MCRT)
b.thehydraulicdetentiontimeofthewastewaterbeingtreatedintheaerationbasins
c.aerationblowercapacity,oxygenuptakerateofthemixedliquor,andtypeofdiffuser
d.thesecondaryclarifierdesigncriteriahydraulic,andsolidsloadingrates
e.wasteactivatedsludge(WAS)andreturnactivatedsludge(RAS)designparameters
f.wastewatertreatmentstreamcharacteristics
Operationalcontrols:thereareseveral
1)Returnactivatedsludgemodesofoperationinclude:
a)Constantflowrate:thereturnactivatedsludgeispumpedfromthesecondaryclarifier(s)
backtotheaerationbasin(s)ataconstantflowratedisregardingallotherprocessvariables.
b)Rawwastewaterflowpaced:thereturnactivatedsludgeisreturnedaccordingtoarateto
thatisproportionaltotheincomingwastewatertobetreated.Usuallythismeansthatasthe
wastewaterflowincreases,theflowrateofthereturnactivatedsludgeisincreasedonapreset
proportionalrate.
c)Combinationflowrates:somefacilitiesutilizebothconstantflowratesandflowproportional
flowratesdependingontheseason,wastewatertemperature,changesinorganicloading
rates,andalsotimeofday.
2)Itisveryimportanttomaintaintheselectedquantityofmicroorganismsinyouraeration
basin(s),and/orclarifier(s)(SRTorMCRT).Thisisaccomplisheddailybyremovingfromthe
system(wasting)eachdaysgrowthofmicroorganisms,inwhatwecallwasteactivatedsludge.
Thewastingoftheexcessmicrobesfromyourprocessisthemostimportantprocessvariable,
asitaffectsalloftheothervariables.
Wastingofactivatedsludgeisbasicallyoneoftwomethods:
a)Constantflowrate:thewastingrateoftheactivatedsludgeisconstantovertheentireday,
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baseduponthenumberofdrypoundsofactivatedsludgethatneedtobewastedtoholda
specificMCRTorSRT.
b)Batchwastingrate:treatmentprocessesthathavehighMCRTsorSRTs,suchasextended
aerationplants,maywastesolidsfromtheirsysteminsmallbatchesdaily,oronceperday.
Thisisusuallynotrecommended,buthasprovidedsatisfactoryresultsformanysmallfacilities
withsuchprocessesasextendedaerationoxidationditch.
3)Dissolvedoxygenconcentration
Themicroorganismsrequiredissolvedoxygeninthewaterinordertocarryouttheirmetabolic
processes,andtostabilizetheorganics(CBOD)inthewastewater.Theremustbesufficient
dissolvedoxygennotonlyforthefreeswimmingandsmallcoloniesofmicrobes,butalsofor
thosemicrobesthatareinthecenteroflargerflockparticles.
Mostprocesses,withoutselector's,hold2to3mg/Ldissolvedoxygenconcentration.Above3
mg/LDOconcentrationelectricalpowerisusuallywasted.Filamentousmicroorganismsare
usuallyabletooutcompetemoredesirablemicrobeswhentheDOconcentrationisbelow
1mg/L.(Filamentousmicroorganismsinhigherproportionstoothermicrobescancausepoor
sludgesettlingproblemsintheclarifier's.)Asstatedpreviously,processeswithselectorswill
havedissolvedoxygenconcentrationsthatwillvaryfromthesevalues.
Additionaloxygen,abovethatrequiredforcarbonaceousbiochemicaloxygendemand(CBOD)
removal,isrequiredifthetreatmentprocessistoconvertammoniaintonitrates(nitrification).
Optimizingyouractivatedsludgeprocess:
UsingtheXaxis(horizontal)forthetimevalueofdays,graph(trend)yourtreatmentplants
influentandeffluentBODandsuspendedsolidsontheYaxis(vertical).Usingthesamescale
oftheXaxis,graphthecorrespondingactivatedsludgeprocessvaluesofF/Mratio,MLSSor
MLVSS,SRTorMCRT,SVIandDOconcentrations.Thegoalofthistaskistocorrelateprocess
parameterstothebestqualityofplanteffluent.Oncethebestqualityofeffluentisfound,the
processparametersthatachievedthiswaterqualityareselectedforoperationaluse.
Remember,inoursmallercommunitieswegenerallyhavegreatervariationsinflowrates,
suspendedsolids,andCBODloadingsontheplant.Ourchallengetherefore,istoholdour
proportionalprocessvariablesasstableaswecan,whiletheloadingsvarysomewhat.(Those
ofuswhohavethe"thrill"ofoperatingresorts,weekendcommunityfacilities,etc.,have
learnedthisskillalltoowell!)WecanbestdothisbyselectingthebestSRTorMCRTvaluethat
thegraphsindicateandapplysufficientdissolvedoxygentomeetthecorrespondingoxygen
demand.WecalculatetheSRTorMCRTatleastdaily.Wethensetourwastingrateof
activatedsludgeonafivedayorsevendayrunningtheaverage.Thishelpstostabilizeswings
inthenumberofpoundsofmicrobesinoursystems.Generallyspeaking,foreverypoundof
BODenteringtheprocesswecreateapproximately0.4to0.6poundsofmicroorganisms.The
microbesmustthereforebewastedfromthesystem,orsoontheclarifierswillbefilledwith
solids!
Generallyspeaking,evensmallchangesintheoperatingparameterssuchastheMCRTorSRT,
F/Mratio,andmixedliquorsuspendedsolidsconcentrationrequireasmuchastwoorthree
timestheMCRTorSRTvaluetostabilizetothenewparameters.Patienceisthekeyhere!
ProcessparametersandLaboratorysamplingandanalysis
Thetypeoftestsandtheirfrequencyforlaboratorysamplingandanalysiswillbedictatedby
themagnitudeofthevariationsinthewastewaterflowstreamandtheCBODconcentrations
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enteringthetreatmentplant,thedesignoftheactivatedsludgeprocess.Thefollowingshould
beconsideredforcontrolofanactivatedsludgeprocess:
Aerationbasin:
dissolvedoxygenconcentration
mixedliquorsuspendedsolids
mixedliquorvolatilesuspendedsolids
sludgevolumeindex(SVI)
Secondaryclarifier:
sludgeblanketdepthsandsuspendedsolidsconcentrationintheclarifier.

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