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Optimizing mixing mode and intensity to prevent sludge flotation in sulfidogenic anaerobic sludge bed reactors

Wang, Bo, Wu, Di, Ekama, George A., Huang, Hao, Lu, Hui, Chen, Guang-Hao
Water research 2017 v.122 pp. 481-491
anaerobic ammonium oxidation, anaerobic digesters, correlation, hydrophobicity, mixing, roughness, sewage treatment, sludge, viscosity, wastewater treatment
Sludge flotation is a notorious problem in anaerobic wastewater treatment that can occur under various operational conditions and even cause the anaerobic process to completely fail. Despite having been documented for over three decades, its causes and remedies remain elusive, particularly for low-gas-production anaerobic processes such as sulfidogenic and anammox processes. This paper systematically studies sludge flotation in an anaerobic sulfidogenic process for saline domestic sewage treatment. Three lab-scale sulfidogenic reactors were operated in parallel with different modes of mixing (hydraulic, mechanical and pneumatic) at various mixing intensity levels at shear rates ranging from 0.7 to 6.6 s⁻¹ to investigate reactor performance and sludge properties and their relationships with sludge flotation potential. The results indicate that a sulfidogenic reactor with low flotation potential have sludge with low hydrophobicity, low viscosity, and low (more negative) surface charge, while the sludge particle surfaces have high compactness and low roughness. These sludge properties enabled a sludge flotation potential of less than 20% to be maintained. Furthermore, our results show that i) mixing and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), ii) EPS and sludge properties, and iii) sludge properties and sludge flotation potential are all strongly correlated (all the Spearman's rank correlation coefficients (Rs) are either over 0.64 (if positively correlated) or under −0.64 (if negatively correlated), at the 95% confidence level). Accordingly, sludge flotation can be resolved by controlling reactor mixing. Our findings provide a method to optimize the design and operation of anaerobic sulfidogenic reactors that can be extended to similar low-gas-production anaerobic bioreactors.