Laboratory digestion studies using waste activated sludges (WAS) were conducted to compare the digestion performance between anaerobic and aerobic processes. Nine samples of WAS from seven wastewater treatment plants were collected and batch-digested under both anaerobic and aerobic
conditions for 30 days at 25 °C. The cation content of wastewater (both floc and solution phases) and solution biopolymer (protein and polysaccharide) was measured before and after digestion and compared with volatile solids destruction data. The study revealed that each digestion process
was associated with a distinct biopolymer fraction, which accounted for differences in volatile solids reduction under anaerobic and aerobic conditions. The anaerobic digestion data showed strong correlations between soluble protein generation, ammonium production, percent volatile solids
reduction, and floc iron (Fe). These data suggest that the amount of volatile solids destroyed by anaerobic digestion depends on the Fe content of floc. In aerobic digestion, polysaccharide accumulated in solution along with calcium and magnesium. For aerobic digestion, correlations between
divalent cation release and the production of inorganic nitrogen were found. This implies that divalent cation-bound biopolymer, thought to be lectin-like protein, was the primary organic fraction degraded under aerobic conditions. The results of the study show that the cation content in wastewater
is an important indicator of the material that will digest under anaerobic or aerobic conditions and that some of the volatile solids will digest only under either anaerobic or aerobic conditions. Water Environ. Res.,
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