Influences of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) on the characteristics of activated sludge under non-steady-state conditions
Laboratory experiments were carried out on activated sludge (AS) to investigate the correlations between the content of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and the performance of biosolids–water separation, including sludge flocculation, sedimentation, compression, and dewatering, under non-steady-state conditions. On three stabilized AS reactors changes were made in sludge retention time (SRT), substrate composition, and loading rate, respectively, to bring about unstable operation to the reactors. A two-step heating method was used to extract from the sludge the easily extractable EPS, or loosely bound EPS (LB-EPS), and tightly bound EPS (TB-EPS), respectively. The experimental results demonstrate dynamic changes in sludge characteristic and EPS production under the non-steady-state conditions. During the early phase of transition after a change was imposed, the sludge became generally worse in flocculation, compressibility, and dewaterability. With the acclimatization of the biomass to the new process conditions, biosolids–water separation showed a general trend of improvement. Changes in AS process condition also resulted in considerable variations in EPS production. The change of the LB-EPS content appeared to be more significant than that of the TB-EPS. Throughout the non-steady-state operation, the sludge flocculating behavior, settleability, compressibility, and dewaterability had a positive correlation with the LB-EPS content; however, no correlation could be found between these properties and the TB-EPS content. The results suggest that although EPS is essential to biofloc formation, excessive EPS in the form of LB-EPS would weaken cell attachment and deteriorate the AS floc structure, resulting in poor biosolids–water separation.
Journal: Process Biochemistry - Volume 44, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 91–96