This work presents the results obtained from a study on the pretreatment of urban wastewater using a digester that acted as a system for the retention of solids (sedimentation-filtration), hydrolysis of the retained solids and acidification of the dissolved substances. After start-up (Phase I), the digester was operated at hydraulic retention times (HRT) of 4.4, 3.4 and 2.2 h and at solid retention times (SRT) of 24, 16 and 14 d, during Phases II, III and IV, respectively. The retention and removal of suspended solids (SS) was maintained slightly above 60%, independently of HRT and SRT. Conversely, eliminated chemical oxygen demand (COD) decreased slightly upon reducing HRT and SRT. The influence of these two parameters on the generation of volatile fatty acids (VFA) is more notable, reaching effluent VFA concentration of 29 (Phase II), 96 (Phase III), and 107 (Phase IV) mg COD/l. VFA to SS generation ratios were 0.13 (II), 0.35 (III), and 0.48 (IV) g VFACOD/g SS added. Optimum values were reached at an HRT of 2.2 h. Taking 100 kg influent COD as a base, the conversion of different kinds of COD was as follows (in kg influent:kg effluent): VFACOD (4:17), non-VFA soluble COD (45:23), VSSCOD (51:23). Simultaneously to these conversions, 2 kg VSSCOD are generated as purge stream and 35 kg COD are eliminated during the process.

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