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Fate of volatile organic compounds in municipal activated sludge plants

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The fate of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in municipal activated sludge plants was investigated at pilot and full scale. More than 80% of the mass flow of nonchlorinated compounds was observed to be biodegraded while less than 20% was removed by stripping. Conversely, 46% of the mass flow of chlorinated compounds was biodegraded and 47% was removed by stripping. Adsorption of VOCs onto waste sludge was not a significant removal mechanism. The pilot plant employed was found to effectively emulate the liquid-gas phase partitioning and overall compound removals observed in a full-scale plant. Little difference in liquid-gas phase partitioning was observed for coarse and fine pore diffusers in spite of differing mass-transfer characteristics as demonstrated by oxygen-transfer measurements. This implies that equilibrium between the liquid and gas-phase concentrations was achieved with both diffuser types. Stripping of VOCs was observed to increase with airflow; however, the extent of stripping increased at a declining rate.

Keywords: activated sludge; aerobic treatment; biodegradation; mass transfer; priority pollutants; stripping; volatile organic compounds

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1993

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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