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Changing Mesophilic Wastewater Sludge Digestion into Thermophilic Operation at Terminal Island Treatment Plant

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This paper describes the progress up to June 2000 for thermophilic digestion of wastewater sludge at the Los Angeles, California, Bureau of Sanitation's Terminal Island Treatment Plant. The development of the microorganism culture has followed a course similar to that seen at other successful plants for establishment of a stable, well-balanced thermophilic culture in a large digester, but at an accelerated pace. This study began with rapid heating, increasing the temperature of the 4500 m3 (1.2 mil. gal) digester to the target temperature of 55 °C at approximately 3 °C/d. A method of feeding to maximize the rate of culture development was used as feeding accelerated to approximately 400 m3/d (0.1 mgd). An initial rise of acid concentration (primarily acetate) was seen. Within two weeks, acid concentration declined and stabilized, indicating that acidogenic and methanogenic microbial communities came into balance. Coliform data indicate that digester disinfection was stably effective from the middle of April. The salmonella tests done to date satisfy the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) class A specification. Testing with helminth ova and enteric viruses before and after the digester shows satisfaction of class A standard for those organisms. The present combination of low volatile fatty acids and low hydrogen sulfide is good news for odor control. The data show increases in volatile solids destruction and estimated gas production, compared with the previous mesophilic operation; however, large uncertainties have been calculated from the data. As the digester is now operating successfully at the current feed rate, there seems to be no barriers to processing the entire sludge production of the plant. Other results indicate that the U.S. EPA requirements for exceptional quality class A biosolids are likely to be achieved.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2002

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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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