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ACTIVATEDSLUDGE:PART3OF3
PARTS
"TheProblemsandSolutions"
Suspendedgrowthbiologicalprocesses,likeactivated
sludge,possessmoreoperationalparametersand
variablesthanfixedgrowthbiologicalprocessliketrickling
filters.Itfollowsreasontherefore,thatmostoperatorsfeel
thatthesuspendedgrowthbiologicaltreatmentprocesses
havemoreproblems!Iliketoputamorepositivespinonthisobservationbystatingthatyou
havemorevariablesto"correctproblems"ratherthanopportunities"forcreatingproblems"!
Whenanundesirabletreatmentprocesseffluentisbeingproduced,itbecomesthetaskofthe
operatortoidentifytheconditionorconditionsthatareproducingthisundesirableeffluent.In
somecaseswemayperceivethataproblemmayexist,wheninfactonedoesnot.An
illustrationofthisisaprocessthatconsistentlyproducinganeffluentof10mg/LofBODand
suspendedsolidsoutoftheclarifiers.Buttheaerationbasinsareproducingswingsinthe
dissolvedoxygenconcentration,withnofilamentousmicrobeincrease,orotherimpact.The
operatorfeelsthathe(she)mustthereforestabilizetheD.O.concentrationataprecise
concentration(avaluebetween2to3mg/l).Inmanycasesthismaynotbenecessarywiththe
currenthydraulicandorganicloadingrates.Butifontheotherhand,theprocessisoperating
wellinconvertingBODandsuspendedsolids,butimpactingthedownstreamdisinfection
processbygoinginandoutofnitrification,thensomecorrectiveactionmaybenecessary.
Wehavepreviouslydefinedthedifferenttypesorvariationsofactivatedsludgeandtheir
operatingparametersunderwhichtheyarecontrolled.Ifyourorprocesshasbeenoptimized,
aswediscussedearlier,thendeviationsintheprocesseffluentparametersoroperational
problems,areeasiertoidentifyandanalyze.Thesubsequentcorrectiveactionsthatyouwill
needtotakearealsoeasiertoidentify.Generallyspeaking,wefindthatmanyofthesourcesof
theproblemsarerelatedtotheaerationbasins.Higherorlowerthandesireddissolvedoxygen
concentrations,mixing,foodtomicroorganismsratios(F/M),increasingordecreasingvaluesin
themixedliquor'ssuspendedsolids,etc.impacttheoperationoftheclarifier(s)thatfollows
youraerationbasin(s).Remember,thatsolvinganoperationalproblemismademucheasier
whenyourapproachtosolvingaproblemismethodicalinnature.
"Bulkingsludgeisusuallycausedbyanabundanceoffilamentous
microorganisms.Thesefilamentsarestringymassesoffilamentous
microorganismsthatdonotcompactwell,nordotheysettlewellina
secondaryclarifier.Anincreasingsludgevolumeindexisaverystrong
indicationthatthereisagrowthoffilamentousmicroorganisms
occurring.(Rememberthatthesludgevolumeindexisthevolumeinml
thattheweightofonegramofmicroorganismsoccupies.)Ananalogyis
thatthehighsludgevolumeindex(SVI)reflectsonegramoffeathers,
andthelowsludgevolumeindex(SVI)wouldbeonegramoflead.
Obviouslythefeathers,whileweighingthesameamountasthelead,
hasagreatervolume.Thebulkingsludge,doesnotsettlewellandis
usuallycarriedoutofthesecondaryclarifier.
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Risingsludgeisusuallytheresultoftheformationofgasesinthesludge
blanket.Risingsludgelookslikeclumpsofsolidsranginginsizefromthat
ofadimetothatoflarger"blocks"or"clumps".Ifthesludgeisheldin
thetanktoolong,denitrificationmayoccur,whichproducesnitrogengas
bubblesinthesludgeblanket.Thesegasbubblescausethesludgeto
breakawayinclumpsfromthesludgeblanket(atthebottomofthe
clarifier)andrisetothesurface.

Nitrificationistheconversionofammoniaintonitrates.
Ammoniaisconvertedintonitritesbynitrosomonasbacteria,
andthenitritesaresubsequentlyconvertedintonitratesby
nitrobacterbacteria.Thisconversionofammoniaintonitrates
mayormaynotoccurcompletely.Itisnotunusualfora
treatmentplanttohavenegativeimpactsbypartialor
incompletenitrificationonthedownstreamdisinfection
process.Partialorincompletenitrificationdoesnot
substantiallyaffecttheremovalofsuspendedsolidsorBOD
intheprocess,butitdoesgreatlyimpacttheefficiencyofthedownstreamdisinfectionprocess.
A"fullynitrified"effluentisveryclear,almostswimmingpoollike,asourexampletotheleft.

Ifthegoalsofyouractivatedsludgeprocessdonotincludethetaskto"nitrify",thenalow
solidsretentiontime(MeanCellResidenceTime)value,indays,willbeselected.Iftheraw
wastewaterenteringtheaerationbasinsincreasesintemperature,theactivatedsludgeprocess
maytrytoenterintonitrification.(Nitrificationanditsimpactswillbethefocusofseveral
operatornotebooksinthecomingyearduetoitsmajorimpactuponthedisinfectionprocess,
andduetothefactthatitisnotwellunderstoodbymostoperators.)
AerationbasinfoamisusuallycausedbyfilamentousmicroorganismssuchasNocardiasp.The
presenceoffats,greases,andoilswarmerwatertemperaturesandusuallyhigherMCRTs,are
conditionswhichareusuallyassociatedwiththefilamentousgrowth.Mypersonalexperience
hasshownthatwithapretreatmentordinancethatrestrictstheamountofoilsandgreases
thatareputintothetreatmentplantandproperscumremovalintheprimarysedimentation
tanksbythescummechanisms,reductionorevenpreventionofthefilamentousfoamingis
possible.
Ihavehadsomesuccessofcontrollingthefoamingbydirectingthefoamintoafiberglassbox,
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locatedinoneareaoftheaerationbasin,bytheuseoftheprocesswatersprays.Ithenspray
thefoamcapturedintheboxwithafivetotenpercentconcentrationofsodiumhypochlorite
usingachemicalmeteringpumpdesignedforchlorineapplications.Theboxisusedfor
concentratingthefoam,andforalsocontrollingthehypochloritesolutionsafely.Thishigher
chlorineconcentration,inaveryfinemist,hasbeenshowntokillthefilamentousmicrobesthat
existinthefoam.Ithasanegligibleeffectonthemixedliquormicroorganisms,andisa
reasonablycosteffectivecorrectivemeasure.Asalways,itisimportanttotryandlimit,or
control,theconditionsunderwhichthefilamentousfoamingiscreated,ratherthanhavingto
reduceorcontrolthefoambycorrectiveactionslater.Someplantshavealsoskimmedthe
foamoffthetopofthetanksandthendisposedofthefoaminsuchamannerthatitdoesnot
returntotheiraerationbasinsto"reinfect"them.
Ashingisthetermusedtodescribeveryfinesludgeparticleswhichmayexistonasecondary
clarifiers,andinsomeextremecases,evenontheaerationbasins.Ashingisgenerallycaused
byhavinganexcessivelyhighMeanCellResidentTime.Thisisacommonprobleminmany
extendedaerationprocesses.ItiscorrectedbyreducingtheMCRTtimetoalevelthatthe
ashingdoesnotoccur.
Forpropersettlingoftheactivatedsludgeintheclarifiers,anoperatorhastorelyonthe
bioflocculationofthesludgeparticles.Excessiveairappliedintheaerationbasinspreventsthe
formationofabiologicalflocthatwillsettlewellintheclarifiers.Generallyspeakingwhen2to
3mg/Lofdissolvedoxygenisheldacrosstheaerationbasins,overaerationaffectsdonot
occur.Operatorsmustbalancethemechanicaleffectsofaerationwiththoseoftheresulting
dissolvedoxygenconcentration,inordertocreateabiologicalflocthatwillsettle.
Itisnotunusualforclarifierstoexperiencesomesolidswashoutatparticulartimesoftheday.
Duringlowinfluentwastewaterflowrates,whichtypicallyoccurbetweenthehoursof1a.m.
and6a.m.,thereisusuallyanaccumulationofabiologicalflocthatissuspendedjustbelow
theweirsandlaundersoftheclarifier.Theincreasingflowratesoccurringinthefollowing
morningcarriestheaccumulationofsolidsoutofthesedimentationtank.Anothertypeofsolids
washoutoccurswhenhighhydraulicloadingratesoccursuchasduringheavyrainevents.
Aconscientioussamplingandlabtestingprogramwillprovide
valuableinformation,notonlyfortheroutinecontrolofthe
activatedsludgeprocess,butalsoforthetimesthat
troubleshootingstepsarerequired.Mixedliquorvolatile
suspendedsolids(MLVSS),sludgevolumeindex(SVI),dissolved
oxygenconcentrations(D.O.),microscopicexaminationsofthe
activatedsludgeandtherecordingofthereturnactivatedsludge
(RAS)flowrates,quantityofactivatedsludgewasted(WAS),
secondaryclarifiersludgelevels,influentandeffluentbiochemicaloxygendemand(BOD)and
suspendedsolids(SS)valuesareallimportantcontrolandtroubleshootingindicators.Ifyour
intentionistonitrify(removeammonia)thenyoumustalsosampleandanalyzetheprocessfor
ammonia,nitrites,andnitratesvaluesthroughouttheprocess(establishthenitrogenprofile).
Whenallofthesevaluesaretrended(orgraphed),theyprovided"visualclues"astochanges
intheprocess.Thisisespeciallytruewhenthereisachangeintheprocesswhichoccursatthe
endofonemonthandcontinuesintothebeginningofanotherorwhenthereareincreasingor
decreasingvalueswhicharenotreadilyapparentwhenyoulookatthetabulardata.
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