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Degradation of Methanethiol in a Continuously Operated Upflow Anaerobic Sludge-Blanket Reactor

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The feasibility of anaerobic treatment of wastewater containing volatile organic sulfur compounds was investigated using biomass originating from an anaerobic wastewater treatment facility treating brewery wastewater. Interest focused mainly on the degradation of methanethiol (MT), an extremely volatile and malodorous sulfur compound. Formation of hydrogen sulfide from methanethiol, dimethyl sulfide (DMS), and dimethyl disulfide (DMDS) was observed. Batch experiments showed that methanethiol was predominantly used by methanogenic bacteria as the sole source of energy and carbon. Methane was formed on MT degradation, and in the presence of 2-bromoethanesulfonic acid (BES), a specific inhibitor of methanogens, MT conversion was strongly inhibited. During the MT degradation, DMS and DMDS were the other primary compounds found. Relatively small quantities of DMS were present; whereas the DMDS concentrations could accumulate as a result of the relatively fast rate at which methanethiol autoxidizes in the presence of minor amounts of molecular oxygen. It was shown that DMS and DMDS could be biologically degraded, resulting in the formation of methane and hydrogen sulfide. In a continuous experiment using a laboratory-scale upflow anaerobic sludge-blanket (UASB) reactor with a volume of 2.0 L, the feasibility of anaerobic treatment of methanethiol was tested. The reactor was operated at a hydraulic residence time (HRT) of 6 hours, temperature of 30 °C, and pH of 7.3 to 7.6. The maximal MT conversion efficiency in the continuous experiment was reached after approximately 70 days and exceeded 97% at an influent concentration of 6 mM, corresponding to a MT loading rate of 25 mM/d. The specific MT degradation rate, as determined after 40 days of operation in the UASB, measured 1.1 ± 0.1 mM MT/g volatile suspended solids▪d. These results show that anaerobic treatment of MT-containing waste streams is an interesting alternative for currently used physicochemical treatment methods.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-05-01

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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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