High strength distillery wastewater treatment by a PAC-MBR with low PAC dosage
Augmentation of membrane bioreactors (MBRs) with activated carbon is established to offer several operational advantages. This work investigates the influence of low dosing (2 g/L) of powdered activated carbons (PACs) with different characteristics on the performance of MBR treating high strength molasses distillery wastewater containing difficult-to-biodegrade recalcitrant components. Two MBRs, augmented with different PACs, were operated in parallel over a period of 240 days and their performance monitored in terms of biomass growth, reduction in chemical oxygen demand (COD), sludge properties like extracellular polymeric substances content, filterability, and morphology. Removal of organics and coloring matter by adsorption, biodegradation and membrane filtration was estimated. Though adsorptive removal of color and COD is influenced by the properties of the PAC used, the performance of the PAC-MBRs was independent of PAC properties. Both PACs preferentially adsorbed the low molecular weight components in distillery wastewater. Retention by the membrane filter with the secondary cake layer contributed to reduction in color and COD of treated effluent. The findings indicate that low dosing with PAC adsorbing low molecular weight organics has a limited role in PAC-MBR treating distillery wastewater.