Psychrophilic (2 to 20°C) anaerobic treatment of low strength synthetic and malting wastewater was investigated using a single and two module expanded granular sludge bed (EGSB) reactor system. The chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiencies found in the experiments exceeded 90 % in the single module reactor at an organic loading rate up to 12 g COD dm−3 day−1 and a HRT of 1.6 h at 10-12°C ambient temperature using influent concentrations ranging from 500 to 800 mg COD dm−3. When a two module EGSB system was used at the temperature range 10-15°C, soluble COD removal and volatile fatty acids removal of 67-78% and 90-96% were achieved, respectively, and an OLR between 2.8-12.3 kg COD m−3 day−1 and a HRT of 3.5 h. The second module serves mainly as a scavenger of non-degraded volatile fatty acids (VFA) from the first module. The optimal temperatures for substrate conversion of reactor sludge, after it has been exposed to long term psychrophilic conditions, were similar to those of the original mesophilic inoculum. The specific activities of the sludge in the reactor increased in time by a factor 3, indicating enrichment of methanogens and acetogens even at low temperatures. By adapting the process design to the expected prevailing conditions inside the reactor, the loading potentials and overall stability of the anaerobic high-rate process may be distinctly improved under psychrophilic conditions. The results obtained clearly reveal the big potentials of anaerobic wastewater treatment under low ambient (10-12°C) temperature conditions for low strength wastewaters, very likely including domestic sewage.

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