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Biological Wastewater Treatment Processes

Article by Harlan Bengtson (8,331 pts ) Edited & published by Sarah Malburg (5,165 pts ) on Mar 12, 2010 3 comments See More About: Organic Matter Biological wastewater treatment, a major part of almost any wastewater treatment plant, converts waste organic matter to carbon dioxide and water using dissolved oxygen. Typical biological wastewater treatment processes are activated sludge, the trickling filter process and the oxidation lagoon.

BOD and the Need for Biological Wastewater Treatment

Organic matter in water will naturally be oxidized to carbon dioxide and water by aerobic bacteria present in the water. The aerobic bacteria (as implied by their name) will utilize dissolved oxygen from the water in carrying out this biological oxidation. If oxygen was extremely soluble in water, then the small amount of dissolved oxygen used to oxidize organic matter in water wouldn't be a great concern. Unfortunately, however, water becomes saturated with dissolved oxygen at a level only a bit higher than that needed by fish and other aquatic life. See the article, "Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) as a Measure of Organic Water Pollution," for more discussion of this topic. The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) exerted by organic matter in water, as described briefly above, competes with aquatic life for the precious dissolved oxygen in water, and is the reason that biological wastewater treatment processes are a major component of almost any wastewater treatment plant. The most commonly used biological wastewater treatment processes are activated sludge, the trickling filter, and the waste stabilization lagoon. All three of them treat wastewater by bringing aerobic bacteria, dissolved and fine suspended organic matter, and dissolved oxygen together so that biological oxidation of the waste organic matter takes place in the treatment plant rather than in the receiving stream. Each of the commonly used biological wastewater treatment processes will be introduced and discussed briefly in the remainder of this article. See the rest of the series for more details about each process.

The Activated Sludge Process

There are many variations of the first biological wastewater treatment process we'll be considering first, the activated sludge process. It will be discussed here in very general terms and covered in more detail in a later article in this series. The diagram at the left shows a flow diagram for an activated sludge secondary wastewater treatment plant. Preliminary treatment typically consists of screening, flow measurement and perhaps grit removal. The primary clarifier removes settleable solids and the primary effluent then goes to the heart of the activated sludge process, the aeration tank. This is where biological oxidation of the dissolved and fine suspended organic matter in the wastewater takes place, due to the juxtaposition of the organic matter in the wastewater, dissolved oxygen (maintained by blowing air into the aeration tank through diffusers) and aerobic bacteria (the 'activated sludge' being settled out in the secondary clarifier and recycled to the aeration tank). By carrying out the biological oxidation in the wastewater treatment plant, the organic matter doesn't go to the receiving stream and use up dissolved oxygen there. See Related Articles Most Popular

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The Trickling Filter Process

A trickling filter, biological wastewater treatment plant will have the preliminary treatment, primary clarifier, and secondary clarifier, as just shown in the activated sludge flow diagram above. The aeration tank, however, would be replaced by a 'trickling filter.' The trickling filter is a large diameter cylinder, about 6 ft tall, filled with rocks (or perhaps some synthetic medium) and having an underdrain system at the bottom to allow treated wastewater to be drawn off and to allow air to flow in at the bottom and up through the bed of rocks. The trickling filter brings organic containing water, aerobic bacteria, and oxygen containing air into contact, although in a somewhat different manner than the activated sludge aeration tank. The aerobic bacteria are in a slime layer which forms on the rocks; the water is 'trickled' onto the top of the rock bed, as shown in the two pictures. Air is drawn in through the underdrain system under the bed of rocks and flows up through the bed. Due to bringing the organic matter, aerobic bacteria, and air together, the organic matter is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water.

The Waste Stabilization Lagoon

The third biological wastewater treatment process is known by many different names, such as: waste stabilization lagoon, oxidation pond, oxidation lagoon, etc. It is most suitable for relatively small flows of wastewater, because it requires more land area per unit of wastewater flow, but less operational attention. A wastewater lagoon is a constructed pond of appropriate size to retain incoming wastewater for about 30 days, with engineered inlet and outlet structures. This allows enough time for the organic matter in the wastewater to be oxidized by aerobic bacteria which thrive in the pond because of the steady supply of 'food' being provided. In a properly functioning waste treatment lagoon, algae on the surface of the lagoon produce dissolved oxygen during daylight hours and help to keep the top part of the pone aerobic. The diagram on the left shows a plan and elevation view of a typical waste stabilization lagoon and at the right is a picture showing part of a waste treatment lagoon.

Image Credits

Activated sludge aeration tank: %20Photolibrary/ENVH_Photolibrary_Wastewater_Images.shtm Trickling filter picture: Trickling filter distributor arm: Waste stabilization lagoon diagram: Waste stabilization lagoon picture: Tell a friend Share Flag this article Information on Wastewater Treatment This series will provide information on wastewater treatment, its processes, and the specific methods used at wastewater treatment plants to remove pollutants from the water.

1. An Introduction and Comparison of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Wastewater Treatment Methods 2. Biological Wastewater Treatment Processes 3. Learn About Activated Sludge Systems in the Treatment of Wastewater 3 Comments

Aug 12, 2010 8:00 AM

Manuel Ramos Dissolved Oxygen How do you compute the horse power (hp) of the blower motor or cubic feet per minute of air required to treat a wastewater using the activated sludge process if the volume is 50 cu meters per day with a BOD of 2000 ppm? Mar 13, 2010 8:47 AM Harlan Bengtson Bacteria as a means of cleaning waste water If you just start aerating wastewater that contains organic matter, aerobic bacteria will grow in it, but it might take quite awhile to get a significant concentration. A good source of the right kind of bacteria would be an operating wastewater treatment plant. A sample from the aeration tank of an operating activated sludge plant would be best. A sample scraped from the slime layer on the rocks of a trickling filter should work also. A sample from a waste stabilization pond would also have the right bacteria, but more dilute. Harlan Bengtson

Mar 13, 2010 3:40 AM Rowin Snijder bacteria as a means of cleaning waste water Dear Sir, I was wondering if you could inform me about what bacteria to use and where to get them, to clean waste water that was used to clean dishes and from the shower. For an art project ( I am assembling a mobile drink and greywater system. We had a sponsor that was providing us with the technique, but the company disapeared. Now we are having difficulty in finding someone that can advise us and help us finfish this part of the sytem. I hope you can help us. greatings RowinSnijder

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