As many countries embark in the costly task of implementing or upgrading wastewater treatment, the issue of considering “appropriate” technologies becomes very relevant. Typically, this consideration is heavily influenced by the construction and the operational and maintenance
(O&M) costs of the facility. Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) technology is increasingly being considered for municipal wastewater treatment applications in warm-weather locations given their low-cost and simple operations. Although this technology can not by itself produce an effluent
of the quality of a conventional secondary process like activated sludge, it can still achieve significant organic matter removal rates (e.g. 60-75 % BOD5 removals) at a fraction of the construction and O&M cost. Experience to date in Latin America has shown that an UASB-based plant
is simpler, less reliant on mechanical components and can easily achieve double the organic matter removal rates of conventional primary treatment. In addition, the UASB process generates substantially lower quantities of sludge, therefore reducing the associated sludge disposal costs. Care
should be taken, however, in recognizing that given the anaerobic nature of the process, a high potential for H2S generation (thus odor and corrosion problems) exists for municipal UASB applications with significant sulfate contents. Nevertheless, the challenge still remains in coupling UASB
technology with a cost- effective subsequent polishing step for those applications requiring secondary and/or tertiary treatment levels. This paper presents a discussion of the applicability of UASB followed by different options of polishing processes to achieve advanced treatment levels
for medium and large scale municipal wastewater treatment applications. Information collected from full-scale facilities in Colombia, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates is presented as illustrations of this concept.
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