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A Laboratory Batch Reactor Test for Assessing Nonspeciated Volatile Organic Compound Biodegradation in Activated Sludge

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The relative rates of biodegradation and stripping and volatilization of nonspeciated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in wastewater treated with aerobic activated-sludge processes can be quantified using a newly developed procedure. This method was adapted from the original aerated draft tube reactor test that was developed to measure biodegradation rate constants for specific volatile pollutants of interest. The original batch test has been modified to include solid-phase microextraction(SPME) fibers for sampling in the gas phase. The experimental procedure using SPME fibers does not require specific identification and quantitation of individual pollutants and can be used to evaluate wastewater with multiple VOCs. To illustrate use of this procedure, laboratory experiments were conducted using biomass and wastewater or effluent from three activated-sludge treatment systems. Each experiment consisted of two trials: a stripping-only trial without biomass and a stripping plus biodegradation trial using biomass from the activated-sludge unit of interest. Data from the two trials were used to quantify the rates of biodegradation by difference. The activated-sludge systems tested were a laboratory diffused-air reactor treating refinery wastewater, a full-scale surface aerated reactor treating a petrochemical wastewater, and a full-scale diffused-air reactor treating a variety of industrial effluents. The biodegradation rate constant data from each laboratory batch experiment were used in model calculations to quantify the fraction emitted (f e) and the fraction biodegraded (f bio) for each system. The f e values ranged from a maximum of 0.01 to a maximum of 0.32, whereas f bio values ranged from a minimum of 0.40 to a minimum 0.95. Two of these systems had been previously tested using a more complicated experimental approach, and the current results were in good agreement with previous results. These results indicate that biodegradation rate constant data from this laboratory method can be successfully used to predict the fate of VOCs in field-scale treatment units, and thus could potentially be used for demonstration of compliance with wastewater VOC emission regulations.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2003

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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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