Low strength wastewaters can be those with chemical oxygen demand (COD) below 2,000 mg/l. The anaerobic treatment of such wastewaters has not been fully explored so far. The suboptimal reaction rates with low substrate concentrations, and the presence of dissolved oxygen in the influent are regarded as possible constraints. In this study, the treatment of low strength soluble wastewaters containing ethanol or whey was studied in lab-scale upflow anaerobic sludged bed (UASB) reactors at 30°C. The high treatment performance obtained demonstrates that UASB reactors are viable for treating both types of wastewaters at low COD concentrations. The treatment of the ethanol containing wastewater resulted in COD removal efficiencies exceeding 95% at organic loading rates (OLR) between 0.3 to 6.8 g COD/l-d with influent concentrations in the range of 422 to 943 mg COD/l. In the case of the more complex whey containing wastewater, COD removal efficiencies exceeded 86% at OLRs up to 3.9 g COD/l·, as long as the COD influent was above 630 mg/l. Lowering the COD influent resulted in decreased efficiency with sharper decrease at values below 200 mg/l. Acidification instead of methanogenesis was found to be the rate limiting step in the COD removal at low concentrations, which was not the case when treating ethanol. The effect of dissolved oxygen in the influent as a potential danger in anaerobic treatment was investigated in reactors fed with and without dissolved oxygen. Compared with the control reactor, the reactor receiving oxygen showed no detrimental effects in the treatment performance. Thus, the presence of dissolved oxygen in dilute wastewaters is expected to be of minor importance in practice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology