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Chapter 13

Sludge Thickening: Design of

Gravitational Thickening
Preliminary Operations

Grinding, screening, degritting, blending and storage of solids are

necessary to provide a relatively homogeneous feed to subsequent
processing facilities.

grinding: large and thin materials in sludge are cut into small particles
to prevent clogging, and provide more uniform dewatering.

screening: are used for the removal of nuisance fine solids from
septage, primary sludge, or biosolids.

degritting: it is preferred where separate grit removal facilities are not

used infront of primary sedimentation tank, or where it is not adequate
to handle peak flows. The most effective method of separating the grit
particles from the organic sludge can be achieved via the application of
centrifugal forces.

blending: sludge produced from primary (settleable solids), secondary
(biological solids) and advanced wastewater (biological and chemical
solids) processes is blended to produce a uniform mixture to
especially for sludge dewatering, heat treatment, and incineration

storage: should be provided to smooth out fluctuations in solids

production and to allow solids to accumulate during periods when they
are not operating (night shifts, weekend).

In small installations: sludge is stored in settling tank and digesters.

In large ones: in separate storage tanks.

! Do not store sludge longer than 2-3 days, otherwise it becomes

odorous, and it will be more difficult to dewater. Sludge is often aerated
to prevent septicity and to promote mixing.

Volume Reduction Processes

1. Thickening (gravity, flotation,

centrifugal, gravity-belt)
2. Dewatering (vacuum filtration,
centrifugation, belt-filter press, filter
presses, sludge drying beds, lagoons)

Gravity Thickening
Thickening is a procedure used to increase the solids content of
sludge by removing a portion of the liquid fraction.

Gravity thickeners are commonly used to concentrate solids in

sludges from the primary clarifier, trickling filter, and activated
sludge. Combined primary and secondary sludges and chemical
sludges are also thickened in the gravity thickeners.

The primary and lime sludges thicken easily. The presence of

biological sludge complicate gravity settling because they
settle slowly, resist compaction, and tend to stratify. Depending
on the process efficieny, we may get two to five times
concentrated solids than the incoming slurry.
Gravity Thickening
Gravity thickening is accomplished in circular sedimentation basins similar to
those used for primary and secondary clarifiers.

dilute sludge is fed to a center feed well

the feed sludge is allowed to settle and compact
the thickened sludge is withdrawn from the conical tank bottom
sludge collection mechanism stir the sludge gently, openning up the channels
for water to escape
the supernatant flow is passed over an effluent weir and returned to primary
settling tank

Gravity Thickening
Design Criteria

1)minimum surface area based on hydraulic and

solids loading:
hydraulic overflow rate (10-30 m3/m2.d): is important
because it relates to solids loading rate. A high hydraulic
loading can cause excessive solid carryover. A low loading may
create septic conditions, odor, and floating sludge problem.

2)thickener depth:

Generally, the sludge thickeners are designed with a side

water of 3-4 m and a detention period of 24 h.

2) floor slope:
Gravity thickeners are generally circular concrete tanks with
bottoms sloping toward the center. The slope of the bottom
floor is generally 2:12 to 3:12, which is steeper than for 7
standard settling tanks.
Design Criteria for Gravity Thickeners
Type Influent Thickened Hydraulic Solids Solids Overflow,
of Solids Conc. Solids Conc. overflow Loading Capture TSS (mg/l)
Sludge (%) (%) rates (kg/m2.d) (%)

Primary 1.0-7.0 5.0-10.0 15.5-31 90-144 85-98 300-


Trickling 1.0-4.0 2.0-6.0 2-6 35-50 80-92 200-


Waste 0.2-1.5 2.0-4.0 4-8 10-35 60-85 200-


Combined 0.5-2.0 4.0-6.0 6-12 25-80 85-92 300-800

and waste