This study shows the results obtained during the starting-up evaluation of an UASB reactor treating domestic sewage. It is located in the municipality of Ginebra, Valle del Cauca region in Colombia. Its design flow is 7.5 l/s with a maximum capacity of 10 l/s. The reactor was seeded with a deficient quality inoculum which accounted for 20% of the total reactor volume. The starting-up methodology comprised the sequential washing of the sludge (inoculum) by applying three different upflow velocities. This procedure resembles what other authors term the “selective pressure method”. Once the sludge was washed, the reactor was started-up with an initial hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 24.9 hours, which was steadily reduced down to 6.7 hours in the final stage. Along the starting-up phase, there was a positive evolution in terms of quantity, quality and spatial distribution of the sludge. Consequently, there was a positive evolution in organic matter removal mechanisms. For HRT above 14 hours, the removal mechanisms were mainly physical whilst for HRT below 9 hours the removal mechanisms were mostly biological. Based on the above considerations and on the water quality parameters measured, it may be concluded that the start-up of an UASB reactor for domestic sewage treatment seeded with a low quality inoculum can be done with HRT as low as 15 or 12 hours. In this way, it is possible to reduce the starting-up period of these reactors down to 4 to 6 weeks, provided that the starting-up methodology is properly applied.

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