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Sludge Bulking

PAPR 3531

Bulking Sludge
General definition:
A secondary (biological) sludge with poor
settling and compaction characteristics

Bulking sludges are more of a concern with activated


sludge treatment but also can occur in aerated
stabilization basins

Significance
Why care?

High TSS and associated BOD


(~0.1-0.8 lb BOD/lb TSS) in
effluent, possibly resulting in
a permit violation
Difficulty in achieving desired
solids in RAS and therefore
difficulty in controlling
activated sludge system

Origins of High TSS and/or


Sludge Settling Problems
Equipment design and condition (mechanical
problems):

Uneven flow splitting (parallel clarifiers)


Inlet and outlet structures (flow distribution, velocity
dissipation)
Flocculation chamber
Weir placement and condition
Sludge removal mechanism
Hydraulic overloading or surges
Solids overloading or surges
Wind-created or thermal-induced currents

Origins of High TSS and/or


Sludge Settling Problems
Problems related to solids
characteristics:

Pin floc (from high shear/over-aeration,


low F/M, toxicity)
Dispersed growth (from high F/M, low
nutrients)
Rising sludge (from anaerobic gases)
Severe foam or scum (from surfactants,
high F/M or low F/M filaments)
Viscous bulking
Filamentous bulking

Viscous Bulking

a.k.a. slime, polysaccharide, hydrous, non-filamentous or


zoogloeal bulking
Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) surround
bacterial cells and consist of carbohydrates (i.e.,
polysaccharides), proteins, and other substances
EPS is critical to ability of bacteria to flocculate, settle,
and dewater
With viscous bulking, polysaccharide content is higher
than normal, which causes the density of bacteria to be
reduced (poor settling)
Generally caused by nutrient deficiency (not enough
nitrogen or phosphorus)

Filamentous Bulking
The most common of settling and
compaction problems

Filamentous Bulking
The culprits: Filamentous
organisms (bacteria, possibly
fungi)

Their shape is long and narrow


(length >> width)
They remove BOD (good)
In small concentrations they provide
physical support to flocs (good)
At high concentrations they interfere
with settling in secondary clarifiers
(bad)

Filamentous Bulking Characteristics

Poor compaction of sludge blanket (high


blanket level)

If there is a supernatant, it is usually very clear

High Sludge Volume Index (SVI)

Large, strong flocs, but they settle poorly

Filamentous bacteria predominate, as can be


seen with MLSS sample and a 100x microscope

Activated Sludge Under the Microscope


Good floc structure

Poor floc structure

Sludge Volume Index (SVI)

It is the volume in mL of one gram of settled sludge


It is measured with a settling test using a 1-liter
graduated cylinder* and a 30-min. settling time

SVI = (settled volume in mL/L)(1000 mg/g)


initial MLSS in mg/L

As SVI increases, the likelihood of higher effluent


TSS increases
SVI > 150 mL/g often defined as bulking sludge, but
a too high SVI is treatment-plant specific

* Or larger-diameter settleometer

Is this a bulking sludge?


Settled sludge volume
(SSV30) = 930 mL/L
MLSS = 3,000 mg/L = 3 g/L
SVI = (930 mL/L)/(3 g/L)
SVI = 310 mL/g
Bulking? Yes (> 150)
Is it a problem?

SVI as a Function of Filaments

Palm, J.C.; Jenkins, D.; and Parker, D.S. 1980. Relationship between organic loading, dissolved oxygen
concentration and sludge settleability in the completely-mixed activated sludge process. Journal of the
Water Pollution Control Federation. 52(10):2484-2506.

Remedial Measures
Treat the symptom (may be a short-term or
long-term solution)

Add settling or weighting aids at secondary


clarifier

Polymers
Lime
Ferric chloride
Alum

Remedial Measures
Treat the symptom (continued)

Add toxic agents


Oxidants (chlorine/hypochlorite,
peroxide)
2 - 10 lb Cl2/day/1000 lb MLSS
Proprietary biocides
pH shock (usually add acid)

Remedial Measures
Eliminate the cause (longer-term solution)

Specific conditions have been associated with the


proliferation of certain filament types
Identify probable cause(s)/condition(s) by identifying
the predominant filamentous organisms (identification
requires expertise)
If necessary, examine or collect other information to
confirm the probable cause(s)
Make operational and/or equipment changes to correct
the problem

Causes of Filamentous Outbreaks


(Conditions Favoring Filaments)

Common causes for activated sludge treatment


plants in the paper industry:

Septicity (high sulfide and/or volatile organic acid levels)

Low F/M ratio (less than ~0.2 - 0.3)

Low dissolved oxygen (less than ~2 mg/L, but a function


of F/M & temperature)
Nutrient deficiency (nitrogen or phosphorus, or possibly
trace metals)
Richard, M.G. 1997. Recent changes in the prevalence and causes of bulking filamentous bacteria in
pulp and papermill activated sludge systems. TAPPI Proceedings - Environmental Conference &
Exhibition, 553-556.

Causes of Filamentous Outbreaks


(Conditions Favoring Filaments)

Approximate minimum nutrient residuals


(measured before secondary clarifier):
Ammonia (NH4+): 1 mg/L as N
Orthophosphate (PO43-): 0.5 mg/L as P

Some mill treatment plants with strict permit


limits for phosphorus are able to operate
successfully at lower levels of orthophosphate
(as low as ~0.1 mg/L)

Causes of Filamentous Outbreaks


(Conditions Favoring Filaments)

Less common causes for paper industry treatment


plants:

Low pH (<6.5) or pH swings


Nature of the BOD (high amount of easily degraded
organic matter)

Filament Types in Pulp and


Paper Activated Sludge Systems
FILAMENT TYPE

ASSOCIATED CONDITION

More prevalent:
Thiothrix II

septicity; low nutrients (N)

Thiothrix I

septicity; low nutrients (N)

Nostocoida limicola II

septicity

Type 0914

septicity

H. hydrossis

low dissolved oxygen

Nostocoida limicola III

septicity; low nutrients (P)

Type 1851

low organic loading (low F/M)

Type 1701

low dissolved oxygen

Type 021N

septicity; low nutrients (N)

(N) = nitrogen deficiency

(P) = phosphorus deficiency

Filament Types in Pulp and


Paper Activated Sludge Systems
FILAMENT TYPE

ASSOCIATED CONDITION

Less prevalent:
Type 0092

septicity

Type 0411

septicity

Type 0675

low organic loading (low F/M)

Sphaerotilus natans

low dissolved oxygen

Type 0041

low organic loading (low F/M)

Type 0581

septicity

Type 0803

low organic loading (low F/M)

Type 0211

septicity

Richard, M.G. 1997. Recent changes in the prevalence and causes of bulking filamentous bacteria in pulp and
papermill activated sludge systems. TAPPI Proceedings - Environmental Conference & Exhibition, 553-556.

Eliminating the Cause


Operational and/or equipment changes
might involve:

Add (more) nutrient

Increase aeration

Raise F/M

Install a selector

Selectors

A selector is an initial contact zone (separate tank or


sectionalized compartment) of short duration (15-60
min. HRT) where primary effluent and RAS are combined
so that the F/M ratio is high and the DO level is
controlled.
A selector may be aerated (aerobic) or not (anaerobic or
anoxic).
Selectors are little used in the paper industry (~dozen
mills or so in US). Most are aerobic. Generally seem to
work. NOT suitable solution for low nutrients.

This really is a clarifier

Thanks to Paul Klopping of Callahan and Brooks for permission to


use most of the photographs that appear in these lecture notes.