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WEFTEC® 2003

DETERMINE THE AFFECT OF INDIVIDUAL WASTEWATER


CHARACTERISTICS AND VARIANCES ON PRIMARY CLARIFIER PERFORMANCE

Eric J. Wahlberg1, Chris Sheridan, and Steve Koho


1
Brown and Caldwell
201 North Civic Drive
Walnut Creek, California 94596

ABSTRACT

The Water Environment Research Foundation sponsored a project to investigate the affect of various
wastewater characteristics on primary clarifier performance and to quantify the variability of these
characteristics. Eight public agencies participated in the study by collecting performance data around a
designated test primary clarifier. Three of the agencies studied two test clarifiers.

The data presented and analyzed here were collected at the Edmonds, Washington, Wastewater
Treatment Plant. The paper describes a new paradigm for evaluating primary clarifier performance,
which is confirmed using the Edmonds data.

Edmonds tested two clarifier configurations: (1) a square tank with a circular sludge collection
mechanism (a so called “squircle” configuration) and (2) a rectangular tank with two circular sludge
collection mechanisms. The data collected are inconclusive in regards to which configuration performed
better.

KEWORDS

Non settleable TSS, non settleable COD, TSS removal efficiency, flocculation, clarifier configuration

INTRODUCTION

Gravity separation of solids from liquid, producing a clarified overflow and a thickened solids
underflow, has long been employed in the wastewater treatment industry. Often the terms
“clarification” and “thickening” or “sedimentation” are used to describe gravity separation unit
operations depending on if the process focus, or objective, is on the clarified liquid or the thickened
solids, respectively (Rich, 1961). The profession’s confusion over the process objective of primary
clarifiers is evident in the fact that they are just as commonly known as primary sedimentation tanks.
While the solids concentration in primary sludge may be an important consideration insofar as the solids
treatment train is concerned, more depends on the quality of primary effluent than the concentration of
primary sludge: while thickening solids within primary clarifiers is advantageous to the solids treatment
train, the detriment to the liquid treatment train (in the form decreased activated sludge settleability
resulting from increased organic loadings, hydrogen sulfide production, and volatile acid production)
outweighs the benefit of the thickened solids. On this account, this unit operation herein will be referred
to as primary clarification and the units themselves as primary clarifiers.

Design of primary clarifiers has historically been done more empirically than rationally. The main
reason for this, it is believed, is a lack of understanding of what pollutants primary clarifiers are capable
of removing. For example, it is not uncommon to see in many wastewater treatment plant master or

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WEFTEC® 2003

facilities plans a statement such as this: “The primary clarifiers were designed to remove 60 percent of
the total suspended solids.” Statements like this, without knowledge of the relative proportions of
settleable versus non settleable suspended solids, are foolhardy. As the settleable and non settleable
suspended solids concentrations are a characteristic of the wastewater, good primary clarifier design and
evaluation begins with a wastewater characterization.

Municipal wastewater treatment agencies have come under steadily increasing pressure to optimize – to
get the absolute most capacity out of existing and new facilities – to minimize treatment costs to
ratepayers. This “bottom line” has always been the focus in industrial wastewater treatment facilities.
These optimization pressures have resulted in renewed interest in primary clarification at many facilities,
municipal and industrial, and with very good reason: pound for pound, primary clarifiers can potentially
remove more total suspended solids (TSS) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) or chemical oxygen
demand (COD) for less operational cost than any other treatment process in use today. Primary
clarification, depending on wastewater characteristics, can have a profound impact on the size, capacity,
and performance of downstream treatment processes.

Process Objective

As a unit operation, physical forces predominate in the removal of TSS in primary clarifiers. Perhaps it
is on this account that many think of a primary clarifier as a constant-percentage TSS removal process.
The process objective of primary clarifiers is to remove settleable TSS. Despite the fact that primary
clarifiers remove only settleable TSS, performance historically has been quantified based on the
removal efficiency of total suspended solids, calculated using Equation 1:

ETSS = 1 – (TSSPE/TSSPI), (1)

where:
ETSS = TSS removal efficiency (often reported as a percentage),
TSSPE = primary effluent TSS concentration (mg/L),
TSSPI = primary influent TSS concentration (mg/L).

In removing settleable TSS, primary clarifiers fortuitously remove the COD (or BOD) associated with
them. Since this COD is associated with TSS, it is particulate COD (pCOD). Because downstream
biological processes are sized based on the amount of biodegradable material there is in the primary
effluent, the performance of primary clarifiers also is often quantified based on the COD (or BOD)
removal efficiency, calculated using Equation 2:

ECOD = 1 – (CODPE/CODPI), (2)

where:
ECOD = COD removal efficiency (often reported as a percentage),
CODPE = primary effluent COD concentration (mg/L),
CODPI = primary influent COD concentration (mg/L).

Factors affecting performance

Since the classic works of Hazen (e.g., 1904) and Camp (e.g., 1946), the design and operational variable
believed to have the most impact on primary clarifier performance is the surface overflow rate. In
reality, however, this does not seem to be the case. Figure 1 (from Wahlberg et al., 1997), typical of

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WEFTEC® 2003

historical data at most municipal wastewater treatment plants, shows the TSS removal efficiency as a
function of surface overflow rate in primary clarifiers at four wastewater treatment plants. Over a range
of surface overflow rates from approximately 1,000 to 3,300 gpd/ft2, TSS removal efficiencies range
from essentially 0 to over 90 percent. Although there appears to be a downward trend in at least three of
these four plots, one cannot conclude from them that there is a very strong relationship between TSS
removal efficiency and surface overflow rate.

100 100
A B
90 90

80 80
TSS Removal Efficiency (%)

TSS Removal Efficiency (%)


70 70

60 60

50 50

40 40

30 30

20 20

10 10

0 0
500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500
2 2
Surface Overflow Rate (gpd/ft ) Surface Overflow Rate (gpd/ft )

100 100
C D
90 90

80 80
TSS Removal Efficiency (%)

TSS Removal Efficiency (%)

70 70

60 60

50 50

40 40

30 30

20 20

10 10

0 0
500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500
2 2
Surface Overflow Rate (gpd/ft ) Surface Overflow Rate (gpd/ft )

Figure 1. TSS removal efficiency plotted as a function of primary clarifier surface overflow rate
(A = Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, B = Dublin San Ramon Services District, C =
King County East Section Reclamation Plant, D = King County West Section Reclamation Plant) from
Wahlberg et al. (1997).

Tebutt and Christoulas (1975) described the primary effluent TSS concentration in terms of the
following equation:

TSSPE = TSSnon + (TSSPI – TSSnon)e-nτ, (3)

where:
TSSnon = non settleable, influent TSS concentration (mg/L),
n = a constant (1/d),
τ = hydraulic residence time (d).

With reference to Equation 3, it should be noted that the quantity, TSSPI – TSSnon, is equal to the
settleable TSS concentration, TSSset. The hydraulic residence time, τ, is equal to the volume of the
primary clarifier divided by the influent flow,

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τ = VPC/QPI, (4)

where:
VPC = primary clarifier volume (Mgal),
QPI = primary influent flow (Mgal/d).

The volume is equal to the clarifier surface area times the average depth,

VPC = APC⋅d, (5)

where:
APC = primary clarifier surface area (ft2),
d = average primary clarifier depth (ft).

Influent flow divided by the surface area is equal to the surface overflow rate,

SOR = QPI/APC, (6)

where:
SOR = surface overflow rate (gal/d⋅ft2);

and the remaining product, n times depth, can be replaced with another constant,

λ = n⋅d, (7)

where:
λ = settling constant (ft/d or gal/d⋅ft2).

Therefore, Equation 3 becomes:

TSSPE = TSSnon + (TSSPI – TSSnon)e-λ/SOR. (8)

Dividing both sides of Equation 8 by TSSPI, subtracting each side from 1, and substituting in Equation 1
yields:

ETSS = [1 – (TSSnon/TSSPI)] – [1 – (TSSnon/TSSPI)]e-λ/SOR. (9)

Tebutt and Christoulas (1975) introduced a parameter in their equation development, Eo, equal to the
TSS removal efficiency under quiescent conditions, although “quiescent conditions” were not defined.
In fitting their equation to pilot scale data, there was an inconsistency in that the estimated value for Eo
was greater than 1, a physical impossibility. What they missed in their equation development was the
fact that the maximum removal efficiency possible, ETSSmax, would be achieved when the primary
effluent TSS concentration was equal to the non settleable TSS concentration as defined by Equation 10:

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ETSSmax = 1 – (TSSnon/TSSPI). (10)

Substitution of Equation 10 into Equation 9 yields:

ETSS = ETSSmax(1 – e-λ/SOR) . (11)

Procedure 2540F of Standard Methods (APHA, 1998), Settleable Matter, includes a procedure for
measuring the non settleable TSS concentration. This procedure calls for settling at least a 1-liter
sample for one hour in a container at least 9 cm (3.5 in) in diameter and 20 cm (7.9 in) in depth. This
procedure is silent on the flocculation potential of raw wastewater. Solids in primary influents are
flocculent to a certain degree. Figure 2, from Parker et al. (2000), shows the supernatant TSS
concentration in primary effluent after 30 minutes of settling preceded by different flocculation times (at
50 rpm on a Phipps and Bird stirrer). Without chemical addition, the maximum flocculation potential
(i.e., the minimum supernatant TSS concentration) occurs after approximately 30 minutes of
flocculation for that wastewater. Wahlberg et al. (1999) also discussed the flocculation potential of
solids in a primary influent. An operational definition of the non settleable TSS concentration (i.e., the
supernatant TSS concentration after 30 minutes of flocculation at 50 rpm and 30 minutes of settling) was
used by Wahlberg et al. (1998), and Wahlberg (1999) noted the need for a standardized test, which
includes flocculation, for measuring the non settleable TSS concentration.

As indicated above, of more importance to downstream biological processes than the primary effluent
TSS concentration is the concentration of organic material, quantified, for purposes of this discussion, in
terms of the COD concentration. Primary effluent COD is comprised of soluble and particulate
fractions:

CODPE = sCODPE + pCODPE. (12)

where:
CODPE = primary effluent COD concentration (mg/L),
sCODPE = primary effluent soluble COD concentration (mg/L),
pCODPE = primary effluent particulate COD concentration (mg/L).

The particulate component includes the COD associated with non settleable TSS and escaping settleable
TSS. Defining ψ as the ratio of pCODPE to TSSPE,

ψ = pCODPE/TSSPE, (13)

Equation 12 becomes:

CODPE = sCODPE + ψTSSPE. (14)

Substituting Equation 8 into Equation 14 yields:

CODPE = sCODPE + ψ[TSSnon + (TSSPI – TSSnon) e-λ/SOR] . (15)

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120
Without Chemicals
With Chemicals
100
Curve Fit Without
Supernatant TSS (mg/L)

Curve Fit With


80 (-0.07t)
TSS = 62 + 46e

60
(-1.0t)
TSS = 47 + 27e
40

20

0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Flocculation Time (min)
Figure 2. Supernatant TSS concentration (after 30 min settling) as a function of flocculation time with
and without chemical addition (from Parker et al., 2000).

Under most operational conditions, the primary effluent COD concentration (sCODPE) is equal to the
primary influent COD concentration (sCODPI). Recognizing that the primary influent non settleable
COD (CODnon) is comprised of the soluble COD (sCODPI) plus the particulate COD associated with non
settleable TSS (ψ⋅TSSnon or pCODnon), and that the particulate COD associated with settleable TSS
(pCODset) is equal to the difference between the primary influent COD and the primary influent non
settleable COD (CODPI – CODnon), Equation 15 can be rewritten as:

CODPE = CODnon + (CODPI – CODnon) e-λ/SOR . (16)

Equation 16 shows that the total primary effluent COD concentration is comprised of a non settleable
fraction (CODnon) and the particulate fraction associated with escaping settleable TSS [i.e., (CODPI –
CODnon)e-λ/SOR].

Substitution of Equation 16 into Equation 2 yields:

ECOD = 1 – {[CODnon + (CODPI – CODnon) e-λ/SOR]/CODPI} . (17)

Defining the maximum COD removal efficiency, ECODmax, similar to the maximum TSS removal
efficiency (Equation 10),

ECODmax = 1 – (CODnon/CODPI), (18)

Equation 17 simplifies to,

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ECOD = ECODmax(1 – e-λ/SOR) . (19)

In summary, the important factors affecting primary clarifier performance can be seen directly from
Equations 9 and 17:

1. the non settleable TSS concentration,


2. the influent TSS concentration,
3. the settling characteristics of the settleable solids (indirectly quantified by λ),
4. the surface overflow rate,
5. the soluble COD concentration (should be the same in the primary influent and effluent),
6. the ratio of pCOD (or BOD5) to TSS in the primary effluent (i.e., ψ).

Interestingly, all of these factors, including the surface overflow rate since it contains the wastewater
flow, are characteristics of the wastewater. To determine the affect of individual wastewater
characteristics and variances on primary clarifier performance, the Water Environment Research
Foundation (WERF) sponsored a research project in which eight municipal agencies participated: the
City of Bellingham, Washington; King County, Washington; the City of Edmonds, Washington; the
Eugene/Springfield Wastewater Treatment Plant, Oregon; County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles
County; the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma; the City of Phoenix, Arizona; and the Littleton/Englewood
Wastewater Treatment Plant, Colorado. For one calendar year, these agencies collected considerable
additional data designed to identify various wastewater characteristics that affect primary clarifier
performance. Because of limited space, this paper looks specifically at the data collected by the City of
Edmonds, Washington.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives for the overall WERF project were:

• to document primary clarifier performance under various flows, loads, operating conditions,
and wastewater compositions;
• to document the effect of chemically enhanced primary treatment on primary clarifier
performance;
• to document the effect of co-settling secondary sludge with primary sludge in primary
clarifiers on their performance;
• to consider the impact of recycle streams on primary clarifier performance;
• to identify variables that enhance primary clarifier performance;
• to identify variables that impair primary clarifier performance;
• to document any correlation between wastewater composition and primary clarifier
performance.

In participating in this project, the City of Edmonds was keenly interested in comparing the performance
of the two different primary clarifier configurations at the City’s wastewater treatment plant and to
determine if there are significant capacity difference between the two configurations.

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MATERIALS AND METHODS

Presented in the following sections are a description of the Edmonds facilities and the tests performed as
part of the WERF study.

Treatment facilities

The City of Edmonds is located on Puget Sound 20 miles north of Seattle. The design capacity of the
secondary treatment plant, commissioned in October of 1991, is 12 million gallons per day (mgd). Plant
flows during the study period averaged 6.5 mgd, slightly less than the typical annual average flow of 7.3
mgd. The City has separate sanitary and storm water drainage. The facility presently has no significant
or categorical industrial discharges to the system and the wastewater source is considered 100 percent
domestic.

The liquid process consists of screenings removal, primary clarification, activated sludge secondary
treatment, final disinfection with chlorine gas, and dechlorination with sodium bisulfite. Effluent is
discharged to Puget Sound.

Influent is distributed to the three primary clarifiers via a flow splitter box. Solids process side streams
are introduced to this flow splitter box. Two clarifiers are 60-ft square with circular sweep drives (so
called “squircle” clarifiers); center feed distribution of influent, a 10 ft side water depth, and 3,600 ft2 of
surface area. The third clarifier is rectangular with two separate circular sweep drives; cross flow
distribution of influent, a 10 ft side water depth, and a 4,095 ft2 surface area. One of the squircle
clarifiers and the rectangular clarifier were tested in this study.

Secondary treatment consists of a conventional activated sludge system operated in the complete mix
mode. The plant also has the ability to operate in a contact stabilization mode, but is not standard
procedure. Aeration is accomplished with fine bubble ceramic stone diffusers and automatic dissolved
oxygen control. Three circular secondary clarifiers, 6,359 ft2 in surface area, are used for final
clarification.

Settled primary and waste activated solids and primary and secondary scum are dewatered on a high
solids belt filter press. The resulting cake is then mixed with influent screenings in a 7,000 gal hopper.
The contents of the hopper are then injected into a fluidized bed incinerator. Ash and particulates are
removed from the exhaust gas, dried on a vacuum filter, and disposed in a landfill. Side stream loads
originate from the belt press filtrate, ash dewatering, incinerator wet exhaust precipitator water, odor
tower recirculation water overflow, and decant from the waste activated sludge storage tank. Side
stream flows were monitored throughout the study period and accounted for in the sample collection and
analysis.

Testing

Four different sampling sets were collected as part of this study: (1) the basic sampling set, (2) the
diurnal sampling set, (3) the non settleable diurnal sampling set, and (4) the settling velocity distribution
sampling set. These are described below. All testing was performed by the Edmonds staff.

The basic data set was collected approximately every six days over one year. Samples were collected of
the primary influent and effluent from the test primary clarifier, or clarifiers in the case of Edmonds
study. Grab samples were taken and analyzed for the following: TSS (influent and effluent), COD

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WEFTEC® 2003

(influent and effluent), soluble COD (influent and effluent), non settleable TSS and COD (influent), and
dispersed TSS and COD (effluent). Non settleable TSS and COD were operationally defined as the
supernatant TSS and COD, respectively, after flocculating a 2-L primary influent sample in a square
flocculation jar for 30 minutes at 50 rpm on a Phipps and Bird stirrer and 30 minutes of settling.
Dispersed TSS and COD were operationally defined as the supernatant TSS and COD, respectively,
after settling a sample collected just upstream of the effluent weir in a Kemmerer sampler. The use of a
Kemmerer sampler allows a “snapshot” of the extent of flocculation at the time the sample is taken since
sampling and settling are performed in the same container with no intermediate sample transfer step.

Diurnal sampling was performed to investigate the variability of some of the wastewater characteristics
affecting primary clarifier performance over a 24-hr period. Primary influent and effluent samples were
collected every hour for 24 hours and analyzed for TSS, COD, and soluble COD. Diurnal sampling was
conducted five times over the year of sampling.

Non settleable diurnal sampling was performed to investigate the variability of the non settleable and
settleable fractions in the wastewater over a 24-hr period. Primary influent TSS, total COD, non
settleable TSS, and non settleable COD were measured every two hours over a 24-hr period. Non
settleable diurnal sampling was conducted five times over the year of sampling.

The settling velocity distribution tests were originally design to allow quantification of the settling
parameter, λ, introduced above in Equation 8. A sample of the primary influent was collected in a
Kemmerer sampler, from which an aliquot was collected to analyze for TSS. The sample was allowed
to settle for a prescribed time after which the supernatant above a sampling port located 6.5 in from the
water surface was collected and analyzed for TSS. After the supernatant sample was collected, the test
was repeated at a different settling time. Settling times of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 minutes were used.
Tests performed at each settling time were done in triplicate. Preliminary analysis of the settling
velocity distribution test data suggest that there is a scale-up factor between the results obtained in the
Kemmerer sampler and the full scale clarifiers. At this time, the quantification of this scale-up factor is
not intuitive. Therefore, the results from these tests are not presented at this time.

RESULTS

Basic data were collected from February 20, 2001, to March 17, 2002. Summary statistics for the data
collected are given in Table 1. Distinction is made in this table between the two different primary
clarifier configurations at Edmonds. The influent was the same to the two test clarifiers.

The diurnal data collected on five different occasions are presented in Figures 3, 4, and 5, showing the
primary influent TSS, COD, and sCOD, respectively.

The primary influent TSS and NTSS, and the primary influent COD and NCOD collected during the non
settleable diurnal sampling allowed the fraction of NTSS and NCOD to be calculated. Non settleable
diurnal data collected on five different occasions are presented in Figures 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 showing
the primary influent TSS, NTSS, fraction NTSS, COD, NCOD, and fraction NCOD, respectively.

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Table 1. Summary statistics for basic data set collected at Edmonds.

No. of Average Standard Variance


1
Test observations (mg/L) deviation(mg/L) (mg2/L2)
TSSpi 65 184 76.408 5838.250
NTSS 65 51.0 27.055 731.982
CODpi 65 433 168.502 28392.840
sCODpi 65 175 73.738 5437.266
NCOD 65 270 102.497 10505.560
Rectangular primary clarifier
TSSpe 65 78.9 29.703 882.246
DSSpe 65 64.2 18.081 326.930
CODpe 65 287 67.428 4546.635
sCODpe 63 176 65.664 4311.738
DCODpe 65 276 74.963 5619.451
Squircle primary clarifier
TSSpe 65 73.5 29.735 884.159
DSSpe 65 59.2 16.574 274.688
CODpe 65 296 75.124 5643.560
sCODpe 65 179 73.874 5457.321
DCODpe 65 272 73.736 5436.985
1
Note: TSSpi = primary influent TSS; NTSS = non settleable TSS; CODpi = primary influent COD; sCODpi =
primary influent soluble COD; NCOD = non settleable COD; TSSpe = primary effluent TSS, DSSpe =
primary effluent dispersed TSS; CODpe = primary effluent COD; sCOD = primary effluent soluble COD;
DCODpe = primary effluent dispersed COD.

350

300
03/03/01
05/17/01
09/09/01
250
11/05/01
02/12/02
TSS (mg/L)

200

150

100

50

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Time of Day

Figure 3. Daily variation of primary influent TSS concentration for five diurnal sampling events.

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WEFTEC® 2003

600

03/03/01
05/17/01
500
09/09/01
11/05/01
02/12/02

400
COD (mg/L)

300

200

100

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Time of Day

Figure 4. Daily variation of primary influent COD concentration for five diurnal sampling events.

350

300

03/03/01
05/17/01
250 09/09/01
11/05/01
02/12/02
sCOD (mg/L)

200

150

100

50

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Time of Day

Figure 5. Daily variation of primary influent sCOD concentration for five diurnal sampling events.

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WEFTEC® 2003

500

450

400 03/12/01
06/13/01
09/20/01
350 11/27/01
03/07/02
300
TSS (mg/L)

250

200

150

100

50

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200
Time of Day

Figure 6. Daily variation of primary influent TSS concentration for five non settleable diurnal sampling
events.

120

100

03/12/01
06/13/01
Non-SettleableTSS (mg/L)

80 09/20/01
11/27/01
03/07/02

60

40

20

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200
Time of Day

Figure 7. Daily variation of primary influent NTSS concentration for five non settleable diurnal
sampling events.

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WEFTEC® 2003

1.00

0.90

0.80
03/12/01
Fraction non-settleable TSS 06/13/01
0.70 09/20/01
11/27/01
03/07/02
0.60

0.50

0.40

0.30

0.20

0.10

0.00
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200
Time of Day

Figure 8. Daily variation of primary influent fraction of NTSS for five non settleable diurnal sampling
events.

700

600
03/12/01
06/13/01
500 09/20/01
11/27/01
03/07/02
COD (mg/L)

400

300

200

100

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200
Time of Day

Figure 9. Daily variation of primary influent COD concentration for five non settleable diurnal
sampling events.

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500

450

03/12/01
400 06/13/01
09/20/01
350 11/27/01
Non-settleable COD (mg/L)
03/07/02

300

250

200

150

100

50

0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200
Time of Day

Figure 10. Daily variation of primary influent NCOD concentration for five non settleable diurnal
sampling events.

1.40

03/12/01
06/13/01
1.20 09/20/01
11/27/01
03/07/02
Fraction of Non-settleable COD

1.00

0.80

0.60

0.40

0.20

0.00
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200
Time of Day

Figure 11. Daily variation of primary influent fraction of NCOD for five non settleable diurnal
sampling events.

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DISCUSSION

A wastewater treatment plant can be thought of as manufacturing plant: the influent is the raw material
into the wastewater treatment plant and the effluent is the wastewater treatment plant product. The
amount of variability that wastewater treatment plant operators must contend with in the raw material
would be unacceptable to most, if not all, manufacturing plant operators. Interestingly, the Edmonds
primary clarifiers seem to significantly dampen out much of the variability in the influent. This can be
seen by comparing the magnitude of the variance in the primary influent TSS and COD data in Table 1
to the magnitude of the variance in the corresponding primary effluent data. The stabilizing effect of the
Edmonds primary clarifiers also can be seen in Figures 12 and 13 which show the primary influent TSS
and COD data compared to the rectangular primary effluent TSS and COD data, respectively. This
stabilizing effect is a benefit of primary clarifiers perhaps heretofore unappreciated.

From an ideal primary clarifier one would expect the effluent TSS and COD concentrations to equal the
non settleable TSS and COD concentrations. Student’s t-tests performed on the basic data summarized
in Table 1 indicate that the TSSpe concentrations from the rectangular and squircle primary clarifiers do
not equal the NTSS concentration (average TSSpe concentrations for the rectangular and squircle
configurations equal 78.9 and 73.5 mg/L, respectively, compared to the NTSS concentration of 51.0
mg/L). These differences suggest that the performance of the two primary clarifiers could be improved.
The TSSpe concentrations from the two configurations are not statistically different, suggesting they
performed similarly with respect to settleable TSS removal.

Student’s t-tests indicated that the CODpe concentrations are not significantly different than the NCOD
concentration (average CODpe concentrations for the rectangular and squircle configurations equal 287
and 296 mg/L, respectively, compared to the NCOD concentration of 270 mg/L). This finding is in
contrast to the finding related to TSS removal (i.e., that the performance of the primary clarifiers could
be improved). The magnitude of the potential improvement in TSS, on the order of 25 mg/L,
corresponding to a COD concentration of approximately 30 mg/L, is likely too small relative to the total
COD, which includes the soluble COD component, to be “noticed” given the variability in the COD
data.

Student’s t-tests indicated that the soluble COD concentrations in the influent and the effluent from both
clarifiers were not different. An increase in the soluble COD concentration would indicate prolonged
sludge blanket retention, which was not the case at Edmonds.

Intuitively, one would expect λ in Equations 8 and 16 to be equal since it relates to the settling
characteristics of the settleable TSS in both equations. Using least squares arithmetic and the Solver
function in Excel, λ was estimated by fitting Equations 8 and 16 to the basic TSS and COD data,
respectively, for the two primary clarifier configurations. Table 2 summarizes these curve fits. Figure
14 shows the fit of Equation 16 to the squircle effluent data with λ equal to 2,033 gpd/ft2). Given the
fact that the samples collected were all grab samples, the fit of the equation is good.

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WEFTEC® 2003

350

300

TSSpi
TSSpe
250

200
TSS (mg/L)

150

100

50

0
2/20/01 4/17/01 6/12/01 8/7/01 10/2/01 11/27/01 1/22/02 3/19/02

Figure 12. Primary influent and effluent TSS data for Edmonds rectangular primary clarifier
configuration.

1200

1000

800
CODpi
CODpe
COD (mg/L)

600

400

200

0
2/20/01 4/17/01 6/12/01 8/7/01 10/2/01 11/27/01 1/22/02 3/19/02

Figure 13. Primary influent and effluent COD data for Edmonds rectangular primary clarifier
configuration.

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WEFTEC® 2003

Table 2. λ estimation from fit of Equations 8 and 16 to basic TSS and COD data for two primary
clarifier configurations.

Clarifier Basis of λ Sum of squared


configuration curve fit Equation No. (gpd/ft2) errors
Rectangular TSS 8 956 63,769
Rectangular COD 16 1,911 393,819
Squircle TSS 8 1,234 69,359
Squircle COD 16 2,033 426,524

700

600
Primary effluent COD (mg/L)

500

400

300

200

100

0
1/9/01 3/10/01 5/9/01 7/8/01 9/6/01 11/5/01 1/4/02 3/5/02 5/4/02

Figure 14. Fit of Equation 16 to the squircle primary effluent data (diamonds indicate observed primary
effluent COD concentration; line indicates primary effluent COD concentration predicted by Equation
16 with λ equal to 2,033 gpd/ft2).

The sum of squared errors in Table 2 indicate that the COD data are much more variable than the TSS
data in the Edmonds basic data set. The estimation of λ is lower when using TSS data than when using
COD data. The reason for this is not known. Also, the λ estimates are higher for the squircle
configuration than the rectangular configuration. Although a higher λ value would indicate a more
efficient primary clarifier (i.e., the higher λ is for a given SOR and non settleable and settleable
concentrations, the smaller the primary effluent concentration), the differences seen in Table 2 using the
same equation likely are not significant.

The λ parameter is a measure of the efficiency of the primary clarifier in removing settleable solids.
Although a characteristic of the solids in the raw wastewater and, therefore, uncontrollable by design
engineers or operators, the magnitude of λ is an important consideration insofar as how a primary
clarifier will respond to increasing flows. Figure 15 shows the affect of λ on the primary effluent TSS

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WEFTEC® 2003

concentration at increasing surface overflow rates for the hypothetical case in which the influent TSS
and NTSS concentrations are 250 and 65 mg/L, respectively. As can be seen, the larger λ is, the less
impact surface overflow rate has on primary clarifier performance. It would be helpful if the profession
knew what factors affect λ for a given wastewater. Not enough data were collected in this study to
quantify the variation in λ.

300

Primary influent TSS = 250 mg/L


250

200 λ = 1,500 gpd/ft2


PE TSS (mg/L)

2
150
2,500 gpd/ft

100 3,500 gpd/ft2

Non settleable TSS = 65 mg/L


50

0
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000
2
SOR (gpd/ft )

Figure 15. The affect of λ on primary clarifier performance with increasing surface overflow rate (SOR)
for the case where the primary influent TSS and NTSS concentrations are 250 and 65 mg/L,
respectively.

The daily variation in the primary influent TSS (Figures 3 and 6) and COD (Figures 4 and 9)
concentrations show the same basic pattern: a steady decrease after midnight until approximately 6:00
AM, a sharp increase until 10:00 AM, after which the concentration stays relatively constant until
midnight. The pattern in the sCOD concentration (Figure 5) is similar except that it seems to show more
of a steady increase after 6:00 AM until midnight. The NTSS and NCOD concentrations (Figures 7 and
10, respectively) are similar to the patterns observed for the TSS and COD. This observation is in
contrast to the suggestion made by Tebutt and Christoulas (1975) that the non settleable TSS
concentration was constant for a given wastewater. The fraction of NTSS and NCOD, however, is
constant. For the five non settleable diurnal testing events, a statistical analysis was used (the principle
of conditional error) to show that the NTSS and NCOD data were as well described by a constant
relationship than either a linear or curvilinear relationship. Overall, the fraction of NTSS and NCOD
was 30.9 and 66.5 percent, respectively. The maximum TSS and COD removal efficiencies possible,
therefore, given this wastewater are 69.1 and 33.5 percent, respectively. On average over the year of
data collection for the basic data set, the rectangular clarifier removed 57.1 percent of the TSS and 33.7
percent of the COD, and the squircle clarifier removed 60.0 percent of the TSS and 31.6 percent of the
COD. On the one hand, these observations indicate that the rectangular clarifier is performing less
efficiently that the squircle in terms of TSS removal, but the opposite in terms of COD removal.
Overall, the two clarifiers seemed to be performing quite well.

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WEFTEC® 2003

CONCLUSIONS

From the data collected by the Edmonds staff for the WERF primary clarifier project, the following
conclusions can be made.

• Both primary clarifier configurations are very successful in reducing influent variability. The
reduction in COD variability is especially important as it relates to the downstream, biological
process.
• Both configurations performed similarly with respect to settleable TSS removal.
• Comparing the non settleable TSS and primary effluent TSS concentrations suggest that there is
room for improvement.
• In contrast to the previous conclusion, the non settleable and effluent COD data suggest the two
clarifier configurations are performing as well as to be expected.
• Soluble COD concentrations did not increase across either of the test clarifiers.
• The COD data are much more variable than the TSS data.
• The estimation of the settling parameter, λ, differed whether COD or TSS data were used. Reasons
for this cannot be given.
• Based on the estimates of λ, the squircle configuration performs better than the rectangular
configuration, although the λ estimates likely are not statistically different.
• The larger λ is, the less impact surface overflow rate has on primary clarifier performance.
• The non settleable TSS and COD concentrations are not constant over time.
• The fractions of non settleable TSS and non settleable COD for the Edmonds wastewater during the
time of study are constant.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This study was funded by the Water Environment Research Foundation with substantial in-kind support
from the participating agencies (the City of Bellingham, Washington; King County, Washington; the
City of Edmonds, Washington; the Eugene/Springfield Wastewater Treatment Plant, Oregon; County
Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, California; the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma; the City of
Phoenix, Arizona; and the Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant, Colorado). For the data
analyzed herein, the lead author is deeply indebted to the entire staff at the City of Edmonds Wastewater
Treatment Plant, in particular his co-authors, Chris Sheridan and Steve Koho.

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WEFTEC® 2003

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