In order to introduce nitrogen removal, many conventional activated sludge systems in Sweden have been transformed into low-loaded systems during the 1990's. Occasionally these systems have been combined with enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR). Increased problems of sludge loss from secondary clarifiers have aroused new interest in the properties of activated sludge. The aim of this study was to investigate the long-term variation and stability of sludge properties in two parallel EBPR systems, operating on the same wastewater. One of the systems was designed as a conventional system, and the other as a low-loaded system with nitrogen removal. The study was performed at the Sjölunda plant in Malmö during a two-year period, in a pilot plant which has been in operation since 1986.
The diluted sludge volume index (DSVI) was found to be about 150 ml/g in both systems. The highest values were recorded during the winter season. The variation in the DSVI was much greater in the conventional system than in the low-loaded system. The dominating filamentous bacteria in the conventional system were Type 021N and Thiothrix, and in the low loaded system Type 0041/0675 and Type 0092. The EBPR operation induced large amounts of poly-P-containing flocs in both systems. Although it was not possible to determine to what extent the poly-P-containing flocs affected the sludge properties in this study, it was clearly demonstrated that EBPR operation may not always provide conditions which lead to superior sludge properties.