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Case Study II: Application of the Divalent Cation Bridging Theory to Improve Biofloc Properties and Industrial Activated Sludge System Performance—Using Alternatives to Sodium-Based Chemicals

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The objective of this study was to investigate the application of the divalent cation bridging theory (DCBT) as a tool in the chemical selection process at an activated sludge plant to improve settling, dewatering, and effluent quality. According to the DCBT, to achieve improvements, the goal of chemical selection should be to reduce the ratio of monovalent-to-divalent (M/D) cations. A study was conducted to determine the effect of using magnesium hydroxide [Mg(OH)2] as an alternative to sodium hydroxide (NaOH) at a full-scale industrial wastewater treatment plant. Floc properties and treatment plant performance were measured for approximately one year during two periods of NaOH addition and Mg(OH)2addition. A cost analysis of plant operation during NaOH and Mg(OH)2 use was also performed. During NaOH addition, the M/D ratio was 48, while, during Mg(OH)2 addition, this ratio was reduced to an average of approximately 0.1. During the Mg(OH)2 addition period, the sludge volume index, effluent total suspended solids, and effluent chemical oxygen demand were reduced by approximately 63, 31, and 50%, respectively, compared to the NaOH addition period. The alum and polymer dose used for clarification was reduced by approximately 50 and 60%, respectively, during Mg(OH)2 addition. The dewatering properties of the activated sludge improved dewatering as measured by decreased capillary suction time and specific resistance to filtration (SRF), along with an increase in cake solids from the SRF test. This corresponded to a reduction in the volume of solids thickened by centrifuges at the treatment plant, which reduced the disposal costs of solids. Considering the costs for chemicals and solids disposal, the annual cost of using Mg(OH)2 was approximately $30,000 to $115,000 less than using NaOH, depending on the pricing of NaOH. The results of this study confirm that the DCBT is a useful tool for assessing chemical-addition strategies and their potential effect on activated sludge performance.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2004

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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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