The application of a membrane bioreactor (MBR) was investigated to treat polluted process water from fruit juice processing. The aim was either direct discharge or further treatment by nanofiltration/low pressure reverse osmosis to produce water of drinking quality. The results of a one-year test operation of the process in industrial scale at a fruit juice production plant are presented. Focus was centred on the influence of activated sludge characteristics on membrane performance. Under the operating conditions in place, neither solids content, particle size distribution nor addition of nutrient significantly affected the permeate flux which was considerably lower than expected (based on municipal wastewater treatment with MBRs). Instead, evidence was obtained that the insufficient permeate flux was most likely due to the high content of extracellular polymeric substances. However, it was impossible to relate in detail the substantial flux variations during the test run to AS characteristics or changes in microbial population.

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