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Effect of Anionic and Non-ionic Surfactants on Activated Sludge Oxygen Uptake Rate and Nitrification

Authors: Maazuza Z. Othman, Liqiang Ding, Yi Jiao


A local wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) experiencing poor nitrification tracked down high level of surfactants in the plant-s influent and effluent. The aims of this project were to assess the potential inhibitory effect of surfactants on activated sludge processes. The effect of the presence of TergitolNP-9, TrigetolNP-7, Trigetol15-S-9, dodecylbenzene sulphonate (SDBS) and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) on activated sludge oxygen uptake rate (OUR) and nitrification were assessed. The average concentration of non-ionic and anionic surfactants in the influent to the local WWTP were 7 and 8.7 mg/L, respectively. Removal of 67% to 90% of the non-ionic and 93-99% of the anionic surfactants tested were measured. All surfactants tested showed inhibitory effects both on OUR and nitrification. SDS incurred the lowest inhibition whereas SDBS and NP-9 caused severe inhibition to OUR and Nitrification. Activated sludge flocs sizes slightly decreased after 3 hours contact with the surfactant present in the test. The results obtained indicated that high concentrations of surfactants are likely to have an adverse effect on the performance of WWTPs utilizing activated sludge processes.

Keywords: surfactants, activated sludge oxygen uptake rate (OUR), nitrification, anionic surfactants, non-ionic surfactants

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