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Psychrophilic anaerobic membrane bioreactor treatment of domestic wastewater

Smith, Adam L., Skerlos, Steven J., Raskin, Lutgarde
Water research 2013 v.47 pp. 1655-1665
biochemical oxygen demand, biogas, bioreactors, chemical oxygen demand, cold, compliance, control methods, fouling, genes, methane, microbial communities, microfiltration, ribosomal RNA, sequence analysis, solubility, temperature, wastewater, United States
A bench-scale anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) equipped with submerged flat-sheet microfiltration membranes was operated at psychrophilic temperature (15 °C) treating simulated and actual domestic wastewater (DWW). Chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal during simulated DWW operation averaged 92 ± 5% corresponding to an average permeate COD of 36 ± 21 mg/L. Dissolved methane in the permeate stream represented a substantial fraction (40–50%) of the total methane generated by the system due to methane solubility at psychrophilic temperatures and oversaturation relative to Henry's law. During actual DWW operation, COD removal averaged 69 ± 10%. The permeate COD and 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) averaged 76 ± 10 mg/L and 24 ± 3 mg/L, respectively, indicating compliance with the U.S. EPA's standard for secondary effluent (30 mg/L BOD5). Membrane fouling was managed using biogas sparging and permeate backflushing and a flux greater than 7 LMH was maintained for 30 days. Comparative fouling experiments suggested that the combination of the two fouling control measures was more effective than either fouling prevention method alone. A UniFrac based comparison of bacterial and archaeal microbial communities in the AnMBR and three different inocula using pyrosequencing targeting 16S rRNA genes suggested that mesophilic inocula are suitable for seeding psychrophilic AnMBRs treating low strength wastewater. Overall, the research described relatively stable COD removal, acceptable flux, and the ability to seed a psychrophilic AnMBR with mesophilic inocula, indicating future potential for the technology in practice, particularly in cold and temperate climates where DWW temperatures are low during part of the year.