Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology, Durban University of Technology, PO Box 1334, Durban 4000, South Africa; Environmental Engineering Group, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, Uttarakhand 247667, India. Electronic address: [Email]
To develop future wastewater treatment systems, focus is to improve/investigate existing biological wastewater treatment processes for the concurrent treatment of conventional pollution parameters (essentially nitrogen) and micro pollutants. Majority of the existing biological wastewater treatment systems were not designed for the removal of micro pollutants. This study focuses on understanding the role of treatment configuration for efficient removal of nitrogen and priority phthalic acid esters (PAEs) from real municipal wastewater in an integrated biofilm activated sludge (IBAS) system. The reactor was operated in two phases: Run I, without external carbon source in anoxic reactor and Run II, a nitrogen removal process, with partial diversion of untreated wastewater in anoxic reactor. Nitrogen removal was 70 ± 12% in both operational phases, however, during Run I, removal of PAEs fluctuated with an average removal of 60-78%. Comparatively, removal of PAEs in Run II varied over a smaller range with average removal increased to 89-95%. In both operational scenarios, secondary oxic tank contributed maximum to the overall removal of PAEs in treatment system. Mass balance calculations showed significant contribution of biodegradation towards overall removal of PAEs which was enhanced by the supply of external carbon source. Kinetics and model output supported the PAEs removal performance observed in different reaction environments of IBAS process. A correlation between food to microorganism (F/M) ratio and PAEs removal showed increase in PAEs removal with decrease in F/M ratio. The study showed that treatment configuration and F/M ratio may be one of the guiding parameters for efficient removal of PAEs in biological wastewater treatment.