The activated sludge (AS) biological treatment process is the most common process for reducing five-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5
) in wastewater, for both industrial and municipal applications. Activated sludge consists of many naturally occurring aerobic microorganisms mostly in the form of bacteria, protozoa, and fungi (biomass).
The biomass uses the BOD5
in wastewater as their food source. As with any living organism, they require a very controlled environment including adequate food source (BOD5
), proper nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and adequate oxygen (aerobic organisms) to survive and replenish.
The AS process converts the organic waste materials to simpler compounds such as carbon dioxide, nitrates, sulfates, and more biomass. These substrates are removed from the water by either settling, DAF, or membrane separation.
The biomass reproduces to the point that some must be removed from the process. The excess biomass is referred to as waste activated sludge (WAS) and the removal process is referred to as “wasting”.
There are a number of activated sludge configurations but all function based on the same principals. All activated sludge systems incorporate an aeration basin or tank and some means of separating the biomass from the treated water phase. The primary difference in the following processes is the way that the biomass is separated from the water phase.
This type system consists of an aeration basin and dissolved air flotation
for solids clarification. Wastewater enters the aeration basin where it is aerated and mixed. From the aeration basin the mixture of biomass and treated wastewater flows to a DAF
for clarification. The DAF
is designed to promote separation of the biomass by flotation rather than settling. This type system is much more efficient and occupies a smaller footprint. A measured amount of the float (RAS) is returned to the aeration basin for treating the incoming wastewater. The excess biomass (WAS) is “wasted” to the solids handling system.
Membrane Bioreactor (MBR)
is the most advanced technology with respect to biological wastewater treatment. The MBR
uses ultra-filtration membranes for separating the biomass from the treated wastewater. Due to the size of the membrane sieve virtually all of the suspended solids are removed. A well designed and operated MBR System
can achieve wastewater reuse standards for municipal applications and provide significant opportunities for industrial wastewater recycling.