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Enhancement of Waste Activated Sludge Protein Conversion and Volatile Fatty Acids Accumulation during Waste Activated Sludge Anaerobic Fermentation by Carbohydrate Substrate Addition: The Effect of pH

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journal contribution
posted on 15.06.2009, 00:00 by Leiyu Feng, Yinguang Chen, Xiong Zheng
Volatile fatty acids (VFAs), the carbon source of biological nutrients removal, can be produced by waste activated sludge (WAS) anaerobic fermentation. However, because of high protein content and low carbon to nitrogen mass ratio (C/N) of WAS, the production of VFAs, especially propionic acid, a more preferred VFA than acetic acid for enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR), is limited. After the addition of carbohydrate (rice was used as the model matter) to the WAS anaerobic fermentation system to balance the C/N ratio, the effect of pH on WAS protein conversion and VFAs production was investigated in this paper. Experimental results showed that the addition of carbohydrate matter caused a remarkable enhancement of WAS protein conversion and protease activity, and an apparent synergistic effect between WAS and carbohydrate matter was observed. The study of pH effect revealed that pH influenced not only the total VFAs production but the percentage of individual VFA. The maximal VFAs production (520.1 mg COD per gram of volatile suspended solids (VSS)) occurred at pH 8.0 and a fermentation time of 8 d, which was more than three times that at uncontrolled pH (150.2 mg COD/g VSS). The analysis of the composition of VFAs showed that propionic acid ranked first at pH 6.0−9.0 (around 50%) whereas acetic acid was the dominant product at other pHs investigated. Thus, the suitable conditions for propionic acid-enriched VFAs production were pH 8.0 and a time of 8 d. Further investigation showed that as there was more fermentation substrate consumption with lower biogas generation at pH 8.0, improved VFAs production was observed. Also, the key enzymes relevant to propionic acid formation exhibited the highest activities at pH 8.0, which resulted in the greatest propionic acid content in the fermentative VFAs. The 16S rRNA gene clone library demonstrated that Clostridia, β-Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes were the dominant microbial community when the current anaerobic fermentation system was operated at pH 8.0. With the fermentative VFAs as the additional carbon source of municipal wastewater, the EBPR performance was significantly increased.